The #LetUsBreathe Collective Celebrates Juneteenth

June 18, 2015

Kristiana Colón
Executive Director
#LetUsBreathe Collective
773.297.1303 – cell

The #LetUsBreathe Collective Celebrates Juneteenth
& Commemorates the Legacy of Rekia Boyd

June 18, 2015 CHICAGO, Il. – The #LetUsBreathe Collective continues its mission of remixing the art of protest by celebrating Juneteenth with #FreeDay – a jubilant service parade beginning near the site where unarmed Black woman Rekia Boyd was killed by off-duty CPD Officer Dante Servin. This Friday marks the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, also known as Black Independence Day, when slaves in the deep South finally got the news of their liberation, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Many Black folk feel like celebrating Independence on the 4th of July is problematic, because though Blacks fought and died in the Revolutionary War, we weren’t really free for another century,” says #LetUsBreathe Public Relations Coordinator Jennifer Pagán. “Juneteenth honors the history of Black liberation work in America, and we use this day to lift up Rekia Boyd because of how her legacy is catalyzing contemporary Black liberation work in Chicago and nationwide.” #FreeDay is a follow-up to the Collective’s #RememberingRekia action on Memorial Day. The action will connect teens to youth resources with the message to “Maximize their freedom” as CPS “liberates” its students for the summer. The event kicks off at 15th & Albany, just blocks away from Collins High School, where one of its alumna Rekia Boyd was shot in the back of the head after a noise complaint.

The Juneteenth celebration will include a traveling open mic and service parade, where demonstrators engage the community with pop-up performances, food & book giveaways, political education break-outs, and neighborhood clean-up. “We’re continuing our critique of racially disproportionate police aggression by highlighting that though we’ve celebrated Black liberation for 150 years, many Black youth are still not free,” says #LetUsBreathe Co-Director Damon Williams. “And because North Lawndale is a community directly impacted by police violence and mass incarceration, we want to wrap that critique in love, joy, art, and service.” #FreeDay continues #LetUsBreathe’s mission of blending arts and activism to bring about change.

On June 18th, the #LetUsBreathe Collective will join BYP100 and other activist organizations in demanding that Officer Dante Servin be fired at the CPD Board meeting at Police Headquarters. A petition demanding his termination will be circulated during the #FreeDay parade.

WHAT: The #LetUsBreathe Collective leads #FreeDay, a remixed approach to protest that celebrates Juneteenth and commemorates the legacy of Rekia Boyd.

WHEN: Friday June 19th, 2015

WHERE: Douglas Park (starting at 15th St & Albany)

WHY: Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. As CPS releases its students for the summer, the #LetUsBreathe Collective invites North Lawndale teens to celebrate their freedom with peace, creativity, and connection to youth resources.

WHO: In the wake of a militarized police response to the public outcry over the death of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown, the #LetUsBreathe Collective formed as a fundraising initiative to bring tear gas protection and remedies, medical and hygiene supplies, and water bottles to Ferguson protesters. Beginning in August 2014, the #LetUsBreathe Collective launched an ongoing series of donation deliveries to support the frontline resistance. #LetUsBreathe teamed up with Lost Voices, a Ferguson youth protest group that vowed to camp out in the protest area until Darren Wilson was indicted. In an effort to deepen the conversation beyond mainstream media’s one-dimensional coverage, #LetUsBreathe produced Lost Voices Live, a hybrid of theater, protest, and live storytelling featuring Ferguson protesters and Chicago arts activists, and Lost Voices: A Ferguson Story, a documentary film bearing witness to this resistance movement, to be used as educational tools to mobilize youth activism nationwide. The #LetUsBreathe Collective works in collaboration with the Black Youth Project (BYP100), Black Lives Matter, HandsUp United, and Chicago Artists Against Injustice. It serves as an incubator for innovative activism to provoke critical dialogue and bring about social change for communities of all backgrounds.

The #LetUsBreathe Collective aims to harness creative capital and cultural production to deconstruct systemic injustice in America and worldwide. A grassroots alliance of artists, journalists, and activists, we use our talents to amplify marginalized voices, disrupt the status quo, offer opportunities for healing and education, and provoke critical thought and dialogue about the intersections of oppression through film, music, theater, poetry, and civil disobedience.

Coverage of #RememberingRekia Action:

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