Let's Talk about the Juneteenth Celebrations

As we get closer to the Juneteenth Celebrations I checked in with Hanan Hameen, Doctoral Candidate and Founder of the Artsucation Academy Network and the Annual Juneteenth New Haven Celebration with Arts & Ideas, about the inside scoop on this upcoming weekend June 19-21st.

1) Can you briefly explain, to those who may not know, the importance of the Juneteenth Celebrations?

Celebrating Juneteenth is of the utmost importance because it acknowledges the emancipation of all Africans enslaved in America. When the Emancipation Proclamation was released in 1863, it took all the way until June 19, 1865 for ALL of the enslaved Africans to be emancipated. Galveston, Texas was the last place to learn the news and free those still in bondage. The first Juneteenth celebration was held in Galvenston, Texas the following year. Juneteenth represents the strength, perseverance, and magnitude of African Americans who are the descendants of the enslaved here in America. Junteenth also brings awareness to the fact that on July 4, 1776 my people, African Americans, were still enslaved so the July 4th Independence Day for America does not apply to us. This is why we are petitioning for Juneteenth to declared a national holiday. This is the day that all in America were declared free, not just part of the population.  

2) What can we expect from these events?

You can expect lots of fun, Arts, family, cultural exchange, community, an interactive multimedia exploration of Black culture across the waters connecting us to Africa and back creating a cyclical relationship throughout the African diaspora. You will also experience Artsucation in action. Each class is embedded in the arts, culture, history, and traditionally academic information. Not only will you move and enjoy but you will expand your mind and learn in the process, which is how traditional African culture and our development of African American culture exists currently. Our teachers and artists will share information providing new knowledge about the history and culture of Black people everywhere. Cultural arts at its finest will be present this weekend and we are grateful to be able to continue virtually for our 7th Annual Juneteenth Celebration sponsored by the Mayors Neighborhood Cultural Vitality Grant Program. 

3) Can you tell me about the B.A.S.E.S Stretch Class?

The B.A.S.E.S. Stretch Class is actually one of my favorite classes to teach and facilitate. B.A.S.E.S. represents two things, the first being the actual meaning Breathe, Align, Stretch, Energize, Strengthen. The second meaning is bases as in baseball. You might end up on 3rd base, hit a home run, foul out, then to 2nd base, wherever you are on your fitness and flexibility journey or even for that day it is okay because you are still in the game. Start wherever you are. It is okay.  My approach to stretching is a holistic one that starts with the connection with self and the acceptance of self through breathing. Once you are able to breathe through each exercise and let your mind free of restraints, your body will respond and open up. Here's a couple of fun facts about me and how this stretch technique was actually created. I was born pigeon-toed, flat-footed, with scoliosis, and now we now Lupus as well. My feet turned in so much I had to wear shoes with a bar connecting them to keep my feet straight. My mother, a former dancer and Founding captain of the Majorettes at Hillhouse High School, saw ballet as a means of therapy for me. At age 2 my parents enrolled me in dance class so I basically began walking correctly and dancing at the same time. This method of stretch is based on everything I had to do, and still do, to correct my posture, hip alignment, relieve back pain, overall Lupus pain, and develop strength in the minor areas of the body. For those who did not begin stretching with the disadvantage of inverted hips that I was born with are able to become extremely flexible to where they are able to contort their bodies. This is why my students are extremely limber. I trained them the same way I trained myself. My students named it the "Hanan Hameen Method" and it is still used widely by them all over social media, in music videos, on Broadway, and now in Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, to name a few. B.A.S.E.S is for everyone, no matter your age or where your flexibility or ability lies. There are modifications for people who need to sit in a chair as well. As a Lupus patient, my full body muscle and joint pain are relieved when I complete my stretching routine. I look forward to sharing my unique method with everyone who joins next week.

4) Which events are good for people with kids?

All of the events are family-friendly. Families are welcome to join us for everything we are offering on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Our Friday evening opening ceremony, hosted by Mother and Daughter team Katurah Bryant and Hafeeza Ture, includes performances and an Elder Honoring and will take place from 5:30pm - 6:30pm.  It is an excellent live-streamed event for the families as we acknowledge those who laid the path for us, the ones whose shoulders we stand. Our village and our families would not be complete without our Elders. It's important the youth understand and see how to pay tribute and honor their Elders. Saturday we do have a designated Children's Space from 12pm - 2pm.  On Zoom we have Intro to African Dance for Children and Families from 12pm - 1pm taught Sharon Dickey member of Keepers of the Culture Performing Arts Company. From 1pm - 2pm we will live stream Storytelling of Suddenly, I Found It and a Cooking Class with Tennille Murphy, Founder of Kidz Kook Association, and her brother. For those who want to drum there is an open-level class taught by Brian Jarawa Gray from 2pm - 3pm that is definitely open to children and families. We also have our Visions of a People Performances that will be live-streamed on Saturday from 5pm -5:30pm featuring some of our instructors and artists performing dance, poetry by Ya'Kobi of New Haven, Sista Zock of Harlem, NYC singing with her band, and a historical reenactment of the Bobby Seale trial by Chaz Carmon New Haven Educator, Actor, and Director of Ice the Beef. All of our classes Saturday and Sunday are open for all to enjoy and we hope have a lot of families participating together in multigenerational cultural fun!

5) Is there a particular event that you are especially excited about?

I'm excited about everything! However, if I have to choose, for me, it's between our "Free to Be' Open Studios on Zoom and our Dance Party from 8pm -12am also on Zoom with 2 live DJays featuring DJ That Dana Game from New Haven and DJ Kaos the Main Event from NYC. I'm ready to dance, release, and have fun! I'm especially excited about our "Free to Be" Open Studios on Zoom because from 9am -4pm on Saturday and Sunday 12pm - 6pm we are featuring extraordinary teaching artists from 4 countries!!! We are taking full advantage of everyone being home all over the world while providing a way to support artists during the shutdowns. We are offering live classes in Senegal with Modou Diagne teaching Sabar Drum and Baidy Ba teaching Sabar Dance, South African dance with Portia Ncwane, and Guinea dance with Aicha Camara and we also have a variety of top-notch teaching artists right here in the United States in the tri-state area. Our classes vary from B.A.S.E.S. stretch with me, to AfroBeat Fitness with Tamara Jones from Queens, NYC, Yoga for Black Reclamation by Shefau Dabre-Rufus in New Haven, African Zumba with Shyana Broughton from Buffalo, NY, my dance daughter and Dance Captain of Keepers of the Culture Performing Arts Company Reina Pelle is teaching her soca based class called GymJAM from New Jersey, our other dance company member Earl Ali-Randall is teaching his Afro-Fusion Fitness that he began teaching to help uplift people during the shutdown, and West African Dance From Mali taught by Abdoulaye Koita from NYC! There are so many classes! Too many to list them all and I am excited myself to take class. For ease of entry we have one Zoom link to be used for both days with no password.  The entire weekend is amazing! 3 days of events beginning with Friday Opening Ceremony with the Elder Honoring, Saturday "Free to Be" Open Studios, Children's Space, Visions of a People Performances, a Dance Party with 2 DJs, and more "Free to Be" Open Studios on Sunday, our 7th Annual Juneteenth Celebration includes 35 individual artists and I'm honestly excited for ALL OF IT! 



- Shay McGrory, Marketing and Communications Coordinator