The Juneteenth NY Organization was designed to celebrate and empower our community to look at the marvels of our creativity, ingenuity, and innovation as a people across the globe while educating others on how to change the narrative about Black history.
Umoja Events, founded by Athenia Rodney, was initially hired as a community planner with George Walker Jr. Organization to create the first Juneteenth celebration in East New York, Brooklyn in 2009. After the first two years as funds started to lessen for the George Walker Jr organization and the event started to grow, blessings were given to Umoja Events to carry on the celebration and was charged to keep making it bigger and better. By year 3, we were overflowing the space we held on Vermont ave and Jamaica ave by needing to block off two one way streets and an entire park with a little over 1,000 people in attendance. Year four we decided to move to a larger location which was determined to be Gershwin Park on Linden Blvd and Vermont Street where we have grown year after year expanding from holding the event in the entire Gershwin Park, field, basketball court and school yard to overflowing into the 4 lane street with over 5,000 attendees.
a community staple
The East New York and Brownsville Community over the 12 years have been a huge support in building the Juneteenth NY Festival into the community staple. Every year we have celebrated the day on the Saturday of Fathers Day Weekend. Umoja Events decided to create a theme every year to bring attention to something that the Black community was plagued by and needed to be empowered to change the narrative on. Such themes included: “Self Identity, Know thyself”, “Domestic Violence, It could be You”, “Health and Wellness, Let’s Shape our Understanding'', “Unity in the Community!” and this year it is, “Rebirthing the Roots of Entrepreneurial Excellence''.
In 2021, Umoja Events was forced to hold the Juneteenth NY Festival online where it garnered over 20,000 attendees from all over the world on the Juneteenth Family Day Platform, the Juneteenth Facebook page and on the Umoja Events Youtube channel. Umoja Events orchestrated three simultaneous live broadcasts. One stream was the main stage which resembled what would have occurred if the event were live with live presentations of prayers, and traditional African rituals honoring the ancestors that paved the way for us to celebrate this holiday, performances of singers, poets, sponsor presentations, games by DJ Basiq and Live music by DJ FAME. Another stream held Black Professionals holding “Realtalks'' about issues of trauma, child mindfulness, Guerilla Gardening, healthy cooking and finances. Lastly, we held a third stream that included vendor presentations, behind the scenes of a Black entrepreneur and product showcasing.
Our focus comes from helping Black families and others to see that there is more to discuss about Black history then the plight of Slavery. Continuing to only highlight the details of slavery continues to place us in a cyclical journey of negative thinking instead of an empowering one.