African Americans’ contributions to communities in Ohio and nationwide were the focus of The Ohio State University Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center’s fourth annual Juneteenth celebration.

The event was held June 13 on the Columbus campus and featured a panel discussion with Ohio State administrators and central Ohio artists, spoken-word and visual art presentations, a crafting station and food representing African American cultural traditions.

The event included a community meal representing African American cultural traditions.“Here in the Hale Center, we have one of the largest Black art collections in the United States and we’re also recognized by the Association for Black Culture Centers as one of the top [centers of its kind] in the country,” said Summer Luckey, the center’s interim director. “Our panel today serves as a representation of how the Hale Center continually merges the university with the community.”

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when Major General Gordon Grander landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the U.S. Civil War had ended and enslaved people were now free.

The state of Ohio officially recognized Juneteenth in 2006, and the observance became a national holiday in 2021. Cities throughout Ohio have hosted events honoring the historic day for decades, including events at the Hale Black Cultural Center, said Yolanda Zepeda, Ohio State’s interim vice provost for diversity and inclusion.

“Our friends and our partners here at the Hale Black Cultural Center have cooked up a delightful program,” she said, “that includes a freewheeling discussion focused on Black joy and creativity.”

The panel discussion featured Monica Stigler, program manager of Ohio State’s African American and African Studies Community Extension Center; Sherri Neale, Maroon Arts Group president; Marshall Shorts, creative-in-chief of Artfluential design agency; Arris’ J. Cohen, inaugural community artist-in-residence at Ohio State’s Urban Art Space; and Ajanaé Dawkins, the current artist-in-residence at Urban Art Space.

The Juneteenth celebration featured a craft station.Terron Banner, manager of community learning and experience at Urban Art Space, moderated the discussion. He presented an overview of the Hale Center’s founding in 1989 and its ongoing work of preserving Black culture.

“The Hale Black Cultural Center is one of the few – if not only – freestanding centers in the nation that has both a cultural and an academic side,” he said.

Facilities like the Hale Black Cultural Center, the African American and African Studies Community Extension Center and the recently opened Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Healthy Community Center at 1600 E. Long St. are essential in advancing the university’s community outreach efforts, Stigler said.

“Authentic collaboration really starts with relationship, and there’s no quick way to be in relationship,” she said. “It’s a constant showing up and giving of yourself and your resources and having some integrity in the work that you do.”