Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated annually on June 19 to mark the end of slavery in the United States. Though it's long been celebrated in many Black communities, it's not currently recognized as a national or federal holiday. Yet as Black Lives Matter protests continue nationwide, the occasion has garnered more visibility and attention this year.
The dance community is involved too. This Friday, June 19, at 2 pm, Elisa Monte Dance's artistic director Tiffany Rea-Fisher is co-hosting the first annual Juneteenth March at city hall in downtown Manhattan, alongside other activists and community leaders from across New York City.
Rea-Fisher has called on fellow members of the dance community to march with her. The International Association of Blacks in Dance and Dance/NYC are among confirmed participants. Dance/NYC will provide interpreters. Those marching will gather at two meeting spots near city hall: the corner of Chambers and Centre Streets (just east of Gibney's 280 Broadway location) and at Broadway and Park Row.
The Facebook event asks people to join "to protest for the justice, dignity and equity that Black Lives are owed." The primary goal is to advocate for passing the Andrew Kearse Act, a bill that calls for police officers to be held accountable for refusing medical care to people in custody.
Rea-Fisher, who identifies as both an artist and a community organizer, intends for the event to lead to further conversations about issues of race in America and within the dance community.
Beyond the Juneteenth March, Rea-Fisher has plans to continue to facilitate opportunities for discussions about race and advocacy throughout the summer. On June 25, she will join The Future of Executive Development's public forum on talking about race and taking meaningful action within an organizational context. And on June 30, Rea-Fisher will host another of EMD's public town halls, joined by former Bessie Award executive director Lucy Sexton and members of EMD, Dance Theater of Harlem and Paul Taylor Dance Company to consider the relationship between the arts, civil rights and activism. Rea-Fisher will also continue to serve as a guest lecturer at Dartmouth College for a course called "The Hazel Scott Project: Artist as Activist," taught alongside John Heginbotham, Virginia Johnson and Dartmouth professor Dr. Monica White Ndounou.
At The Dance Union's town hall on Monday evening Rea-Fisher reminded listeners that, as dancers, training one's voice is as important as training any other muscle of the body. For Friday's Juneteenth March, Rea-Fisher said, "All are welcome."