Southampton African American Museum Leads Weekend of Juneteenth Celebrations
The Southampton African American Museum (SAAM) is celebrating Juneteenth in a big way this year, spreading out the festivities over multiple days from Friday to Tuesday, June 16–20 at several locations, including celebrity guests, live music, an art exhibition, film screenings, panel discussion and more. And the SAAM events aren’t the only things happening to mark the holiday on the East End this year.
Long observed as the day slaves were emancipated in the United States, on June 19, 1865, Juneteenth only became a national federal holiday in 2021, so we have some catching up to do.
JUNETEENTH IN SOUTHAMPTON
“This is going to be a homecoming,” explained SAAM Executive Director and cofounder Brenda Simmons, pointing out that this year’s Juneteenth celebration is extra special and extra-large. “So many people have moved away from here — North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, et cetera — so I’m hearing that a lot of people are coming back home just for this occasion … it’s definitely going to be bigger than last year.”
Starting Friday, June 16, the weekend begins with a special “Homecoming” party at the Southampton African American Museum (245 North Sea Road, Southampton Village) from 6–11 p.m. The free evening of festivities will kick things off with a keynote address from East Hampton native and East Hampton High School graduate Charnele Dozier, an actress, producer, singer and fashion designer best known for her role as Kimberly Reese on hit NBC sitcom A Different World, a 1987–1993 show about students at a fictional historically Black college in Virginia.
Christian and gospel solo artist Nah-Tarsha Cherry will also perform, followed by DJ Infmatick, a NY DJ, born and raised on Long Island, who will close out the night.
On Saturday, June 17, SAAM invites the community and visitors from points west to enjoy self-guided tours from 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
At this time, guests should make sure to view all the exhibits including a fabulous art exhibition, Kindred, by Brooklyn artist Demarcus McGaughey. The artist completed a residency at Ma’s House on the Shinnecock Reservation last summer and made a striking series of collaged portraits featuring generations of his family layered in paper, fabric and other materials.
During his residency, the artist visited SAAM and he and Simmons hit it off immediately, which led to them showing his work. McGaughey’s selection of 40 colorful portraits is on view in Southampton through July 22.
“This is the blessing of all our organizations, we really intensely make sure we collaborate with each other,” Simmons said, recalling that Shinnecock photographer and Ma’s House founder Jeremy Dennis sent McGaughey to SAAM while he was working there. “I created a good 12–15 pieces there during the residency,” McGaughey said. “When I was at Ma’s House, I was doing real analog collaging,” he added later, pointing out that his process includes both digital and practical techniques.
At 1 p.m. on Saturday, a group of panelists who grew up on the East End will engage in a “How Has Our World Changed” discussion, including Dozier, former Up the Academy and Sesame Street child actor Wendell Brown, Broadway actor Kenny Browning, and Truist VP Mark Johnson.
Also on Saturday, ArtSoul in the Hamptons created by Yaya Reyes, offers a VIP Sipping Series where special guests will enjoy all the day’s events turned up to 11 with red carpet experience, meet and greets, VIP lounge, soul food barbecue, gift bags and more from 11:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m.
On Monday, June 19 from 4–6 p.m., SAAM and the Eastville Community Historical Society are celebrating the Juneteenth holiday by focusing on local diversity with a screening at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill (279 Montauk Highway) of AppleTV+’s Home and New York Magazine’s A Beach of Our Own.
The films will be followed by a panel discussion about their main topic, Sag Harbor’s historically Black subdivisions — Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah Beach, collectively known as SANS — and how they were formed in the mid-20th century and have remained a haven for Black families in the Hamptons. Panel participants include SANS President Renee Simons; Eastville Community Historical Society Director Dr. Georgette Grier-Key; artist and SANS resident Dr. Beverly Granger; and cultural resources and preservation consultant Sarah Kautz. Simmons will moderate.
Finally, SAAM worked with LTV Studios in Wainscott (75 Industrial Road) to honor the memory of late calypso singer Harry Belafonte, who died on April 25. The free event from 5–8 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, June 19–20, will include food, beverages, movies and, of course, music. Who doesn’t love Belafonte’s joyful songs like “Day’o,” “Jump in the Line” and the “Limbo Song,” among many, many more.
“LTV has had a long relationship with Brenda Simmons and SAAM. Last year, we filmed and broadcasted their Juneteenth events and are doing the same this year. It’s so important to communicate and educate what is happening around this important date in history,” LTV Executive Director Michael Clark said, adding, “When Brenda approached us about including the Harry Belafonte film screenings at LTV Studios with time for discussion afterward, we saw that as a natural extension of what we’ve already been doing to support Juneteenth. Harry Belafonte was a groundbreaking activist, actor and musician who is held in such high regard in all races. Celebrating his work fits right in. ”
Simmons said the weekend’s packed events schedule is an indicator of all the bigger and better things to come from SAAM, which only opened its renovated museum in 2021 — the same year Juneteenth was given federal recognition.
“A lot of us are really making more of an effort to get our story out there, because they’re trying to erase it,” she added, alluding to efforts against Critical Race Theory and teaching certain elements of Black history and Black culture in schools.
But Simmons said it’s been her pleasure to enlighten others with talks and events like these.
EAST END JUNETEENTH EVENTS AT A GLANCE
SAAM Juneteenth Celebration
A two-day celebration featuring keynote speaker Karen Charnele Brown (née Dozier); performances by Nah-Tarsha Cherry, DJ Infmatick and Certain Moves; panel discussion; self-guided museum tours; barbecue; and VIP experience. 245 North Sea Road, Southampton. saamuseum.org
Calling of the Names
June 17, Noon–1:30 p.m.
Commemoration at the Sylvester Manor Afro-Indigenous Burial Ground with a calling of the names, during which the names and stories of over 50 individuals buried in unmarked graves will be shared. Free. Closed walking shoes and bug spray are recommended for all in attendance. 80 North Ferry Road, Shelter Island. sylvestermanor.org
SANS Films and Panel
June 19, 2–4 p.m.
Screenings of AppleTV+’s Home (Season 2, Episode 5, 35 minutes) and New York Magazine’s A Beach of Our Own (9 minutes) at Parrish Art Museum. A special panel discussion will follow the screenings. Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for seniors, $10 for members and $5 for students/children. 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill. parrishart.org
Juneteenth in East Hampton
June 19, Noon–4 p.m.
Join the Calvary Baptist Church, both the Town and Village of East Hampton, and the East Hampton Anti-Bias Task Force in celebrating Juneteenth in Herrick Park. Reverend Walter Silva Thompson Jr., members of the local Clericus and other guests will discuss this important time in our history, with music provided by Certain Moves Trio. Herrick Park, East Hampton Village. certainmoves.com
Juneteenth Celebration at LTV
June 19–20, 5–8 p.m.
Celebrate the memory of Harry Belafonte with films, music, food and beverages at LTV Studios. Free. 75 Industrial Road, Wainscott. ltveh.org
-With Evan Miller