The Black Awareness Association of Juneau held a fundraiser and celebration for Juneteenth on Sunday as they raised money for scholarships for Juneau students.
Juneteenth is an official holiday on June 19 each year that celebrates African American freedom, recognizing the official emancipation of the last enslaved Americans in Texas following the Civil War. It was made an official holiday by President Joe Biden in 2021.
“We’re just celebrating the fact that slavery ended — finally — in the United States of America on this day in 1865,” said Sherry Patterson, president of the BAA, in an interview. “We said we’d be here rain or shine, so here we are.”
Members of the BAA sold sweet potato pies to a steady stream of Juneau residents who came out to Twin Lakes despite drizzly weather. State Sen. Jesse Kiehl and Patterson both spoke during the event.
“It was great. It was wonderful to get to do that and support the Black Awareness Association’s scholarship fund and talk about my colleague — Sen. Gray-Jackson has a bill to get (Juneteenth) recognized as a state holiday,” Kiehl said in a phone interview. “Juneteenth is a two-parter. It’s a celebration of the end of slavery, and it’s a reminder — if people don’t know what their rights are, it doesn’t matter what you put on paper.”
Kiehl said he enjoyed a slice of pie and bubble tea. The pies are a recipe that Breeze In makes, donating their time and resources, Patterson said.
“We knew Juneau would come out. We appreciate the steady stream,” Patterson said. “Juneau supports us. We’re just grateful to be here to celebrate this milestone in our country’s history.”
Funds raised by the rapidly-retailed sweet potato pies went toward the Black Excellence Scholarship Fund, which helps support Black high school graduates from Juneau as they attend college, Patterson said.
“It’s all about supporting the kids,” Patterson said. “We’ve been doing it for years, but we haven’t really pushed.”
The fundraiser, which also featured food from Blumen Dogs, Coppa and Northern Tea House, was a success, Patterson said on Monday.
“It went well. We felt really good about the turnout in spite of the turnout. I thought we did really well,” Patterson said. “Of course, it would have been better attendance if the weather had been favorable but Juneau knows the weather.”
Patterson said she was gratified by the participation from Juneau residents. The next event the BAA is planning is a jumbo, etouffee and jambalaya cook-up and fundraiser, tentatively scheduled for October, Patterson said.
“I was surprised that as many came as did,” Patterson said. “This is American history — this holiday, we should have recognized it a long time ago. But we’re here now. We’re excited about that. We’re excited that America will learn about our history. It’s an enormous milestone.”
For those interested in donating to the BAA’s Black Excellence Scholarship Fund, contact the BAA at their social media site or firstname.lastname@example.org, Patterson said.