GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids art gallery held a special event Wednesday to mark the 154 anniversary of the abolition of slavery.
Performers from all backgrounds honored black culture through inclusive performances before a packed house at the Juneteeth open mic night at Muse GR on Leonard Street NW.
Muse GR‘s owners, a black couple named Stephen and Taylor Smith, said they want the day slavery officially came to an end in the U.S. to always be remembered.
“Some people decided that they don’t celebrate today but they mourn today, and with it being open mic, you’re able to do whatever you want to do,” Stephen Smith said.
Among the performers was a local artist who goes by Apollo Jetic, who chose the name after the realization that he was over apologizing and not owning his self-worth.
“I learned that it’s not about being sorry … it’s not about what you did, it’s about what you learned from it,” he said.
He said the important message of Juneteenth is not only for African-Americans, but also for other populations emerging from oppression.
The Smiths said the event was not about holding a grudge, but rather to remember what happened and allow room for positive steps forward.
“It’s cool to finally be able to break down some of the barriers that have been there, do it creatively,” Taylor Smith said. “This (Juneteenth) is an event that really impacted us as a community and we still feel some of the turbulence.”
“We just want to celebrate the fact that we have opportunities here now,” Stephen Smith added.
Malamiah Juice Bar and Out the Box Boutique, both black-owned businesses, were also a part of the event.