The Harry E Reed Insurance Agency seen June 23, 2022, in Millinocket. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

An Indigenous public health group will host a healing circle with the town of Millinocket on Thursday, a week after the town received national criticism stemming from a racist sign that a local insurance agency taped to its front door on Juneteenth.

Healing circles are an Indigenous practice that bring community members together to address conflict and trauma through dialogue, prayer and ceremony, Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness co-chief executive Lisa Sockabasin said.

Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency posted a sign to its front door on Penobscot Avenue in downtown Millinocket last Monday that said, “Juneteenth ~it’s whatever… We’re closed. Enjoy your fried chicken and collard greens.”

Photos of the sign were widely shared on social media, and Millinocket businesses that were not related to the insurance agency were inundated with threats via email, phone calls and social media, calling them racist because of collard greens and fried chicken’s association with negative stereotypes about Black Americans.

Three insurance companies severed their relationships with the Reed insurance agency in the days after the agency posted the sign.

Other business owners said they were worried that the negative publicity threatened the town’s economic recovery as Millinocket strives to rebuild its economic base after the region’s paper mills closed.

Wabanaki Public Health approached the town to discuss holding a healing circle at its healing lodge in Millinocket to address town residents’ distress at being the center of a national controversy, Sockabasin said.

“Where we see pain and division, we see an opportunity to heal and strengthen,” she said. “The focus needs to be on healing and connection.”

The town of Millinocket agreed to sign on as a host.

“It’s important that this is a teachable moment,” Town Council Chair Steve Golieb said. “I feel strongly that the business is remorseful for what took place, and I would appreciate the public allowing this to turn into something positive.”  

Town councilors met with representatives from Harry Reed Insurance, who said that they fired the employee who put up the racist sign, Golieb said.

Reed Insurance did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

President Joe Biden designated Juneteenth a federal holiday last year. Black people have long celebrated it as the anniversary of the day in 1865 when Union soldiers liberated Galveston, Texas, and told slaves there that they were free.

Wabanaki Public Health will host the healing circle at its healing lodge on Penobscot Avenue from 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to