Dancing breaks out during a Juneteenth rally and protest in Portland's Deering Oaks Park in 2020. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Protests and the national reckoning over race ignited by the 2020 murder of George Floyd by police in Minnesota helped Juneteenth become the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.

The annual celebration, held each year on June 19, was declared a federal and state holiday in Maine in 2021.

This year — its third with official holiday status — Maine will see a larger number, and greater variety, of Juneteenth events than ever before, from all-day radio broadcasts to health clinic open houses to outdoor block parties.

The holiday marks the day in 1865 when federal troops reached Galveston Bay, Texas, and told some 250,000 enslaved people there that the Civil War was over and they’d been freed by presidential decree in 1863.

They were the last enslaved people in the country to hear the news.

Local festivities start on Sunday when Portland-based and Black-owned radio station WJZP hosts its annual Juneteenth Freedom Celebration from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m, at 200 Anderson St. The free event will feature food, music and food trucks.

That same day, the station will give over its normally music-exclusive airwaves at 107.9 to a full day of civil rights programming, including speeches and special spoken word presentations.

On Monday, Portland’s Juneteenth celebration starts at noon in Congress Square. Details are thin about the exact activities planned, but this year’s theme is “liberation through empowerment.”

At 5:30 p.m. Monday, the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center takes over the square with its World Refugee Day and Juneteenth celebration. That event is slated to include several guest speakers, food vendors, and live performances by  J. Wizdum, Assas, and Viva.

Across the street from the square, the Portland Museum of Art will offer free admission from Saturday through Monday in honor of the holiday. Also, outside the museum, ​​from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m, artist Kevin Xiques is facilitating construction of a giant art piece where he will encourage freestyle participation from the public.

From 2 to 3 p.m., a panel discussion titled “Wade in the Water: Black Bodies Reclaiming our Connection to the Water,” will take place in the museum’s auditorium. The panel will unpack stereotypes, tropes, and bias about Black people and their relationship with water.

Across the harbor, the South Portland Human Rights Commission will host a Juneteenth celebration — and observance of World Refugee Day —  at the Redbank Community Center from 1 to 5 p.m. The event, with ice cream, food, music and educational offerings, will be held at 95 MacArthur Cir. W. in South Portland.

In Westbrook, the city will hold its first-ever Juneteenth Freedom Celebration from 1 to 3 p.m. at Riverbank Park. It will feature speakers including activist and blogger Shay Stewart-Bouley, Black Maine historian Bob Green and Meadow Dibble from Maine’s Permanent Commission of the Status of Racial, Indigenous & Tribal Populations.

The event will also include Jamaican food, hair beading, face painting and music provided by WJZP.

Also on Juneteenth, the University of Southern Maine will host the State of Black Maine Symposium at Hannaford Hall on the Portland campus from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. The symposium’s stated aim is to “create and sustain a public platform to amplify Black Maine voices” while fostering collaboration and bold visioning.

It’s expected to meet those goals through several panel discussions and performances by Black artists, food from Black Betty’s Bistro and a vendor fair.

A week later, on June 24, the Equality Community Center on Casco Street in Portland will host a Juneteenth-themed, free dental screening with Afrobeat music and a chance to win gift cards to one of several African grocery stores in the area.

The Cumberland Community Band will play a Juneteenth concert on the Greely High School Lawn at 6:30 p.m. Monday. The band will highlight music by Black composers and host remarks by special guests, author Lydia Moland and Maine civil rights pioneer Gerald Talbot.

Beyond greater Portland,there are a few other events scheduled as well.

On Friday in Lewiston from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., there will be an event titled “Juneteenth Ain’t Enough,” organized by Maine Inside Out and other partners. It will feature artistic performances by, BIPOC artists from around the community, grilled foods and drinks and family activities.

Also in Lewiston, on Tuesday, the Community Organizing Alliance will host a program called “Honoring Resilience: Juneteenth Celebration” from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Ramada Inn. The event will feature food, poetry and speakers including Rep. Mana Abdi, D-Lewiston, and Portland City Councilor Victoria Pelletier.

Ellsworth will host an event on Monsay from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., called “Deepening Our Vital Connection to Nature and Each Other,” featuring music, poets, speakers and free food. That will happen at Knowlton Park at 11 Shore Road. Featured performers include Maine’s Pihcintu Multinational Girls’ Chorus and Stream Reggae. Chief-Nze Oscar Mokeme, founding director of Portland’s  Museum of African Culture will be on hand with a touch table of traditional African masks.

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.