Celebrating Juneteenth and other signs of progress

Inspiring events and generous acts in NYC during Covid-19


A memorial to the victims of Covid-19 grows outside Green-Wood Cemetery. Photo: Kate Hooker

Hola Brooklyn, how are we all feeling about entering Phase 2? Pretty crazy to think about outdoor dining at actual restaurants as soon as Monday, huh? Haircuts? Yikes. Don’t get me wrong, I look like the third wife of a fundamentalist, Luddite cult leader and have never needed one more, but is my Zoom vanity worth this risk? Anyone else struggling with sporadic, non-specific anxiety attacks? Not sure how to explain the phenomenon, especially as I’m increasingly comfortable meeting up with friends for socially distant outdoor hangs in the park and on rooftops, but I’m starting to think that I may have developed some low-grade anthrophobia over the past few months. At the very least, my conversational skills have deteriorated to nearly nada, much like my muscle tone and the number of outfits in my regular rotation. The irony of course is that there are SO many important conversations happening right now—about race and human rights and surprisingly encouraging Supreme Court decisions and primaries and healthcare and science and what kind of country we want to live in—but this week I feel a bit overwhelmed and incapable of contributing anything new or interesting to them. The growing display of names of COVID victims that I encountered at Green-Wood Cemetery is a sobering reminder that we aren’t out of the woods yet, as was comedian Laurie Kilmartin’s heartbreaking and somehow also hilarious Twitter account of watching her mother die from the virus over a period of days via iPad. 

Today is Juneteenth, and in yet another case of “why the hell didn’t we do this embarrassingly obvious thing a really long time ago?” lots of companies and New York State (!) are giving their employees the day or the afternoon off this year so that they can observe and reflect on the meaning of this holiday that honors the day, June 19, 1865, that the enslaved men and women of Texas received word that they were now free. Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch at Grand Army Plaza is starting the day of remembrance and celebration this morning with a Freedom Day Rally hosted by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and other local pols from 10am to noon. You can also join the Good Company Bike Club for a Juneteenth Freedom Ride starting at 1pm on the steps of the Brooklyn Museum. Want to support a Black-owned restaurant that’s been hit hard by the lockdown? Walk or bike to The Southern Comfort in Bed-Stuy from 2-6pm for a Juneteenth awareness event and some delicious soul food.

If you’re into the idea of protesting in person, here’s a list of marches, rallies, and other events happening throughout the city all day. If you don’t feel great about being crammed into a crowd of thousands of your borough-mates while a global pandemic is still very much a thing, there’s stuff you can see and do from the safety of your apartment today too. The Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture is hosting a virtual Juneteenth event featuring the founder of the Texas Freedom Colonies Project, Chefs Therese Nelson and Carla Hall, and music from Rootstock Republic, or you can check out BRIC’s Juneteenth: Then and Now, a virtual town hall with artists, journalists, activists, and politicians. On Saturday, The Owl’s Head wine bar in Bay Ridge invites you to join them at in creating a new mural dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement at 10am—Brooklyn artists Jen Maloney and Isabelle Garbini will be leading the charge but guests are encouraged to help out by writing the names of police violence victims within the piece. I also love the idea of a Saturday afternoon spent following this Musical March and Celebration of Black Life around town (alas, I don’t play an instrument myself despite all of my best pandemic intentions to finally learn the guitar). 

Sunday is Father’s Day, so be sure to reach out to the special dads in your life to let them know just how appreciated they are. Maybe you can even take your own dad to the newly opened Skyline Drive-In theater in Greenpoint, which is screening Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on Sunday. Or, head over to the neighborhood of my dreams, Ditmas Park, for a series of porch concerts happening from 3-5pm as part of the annual Make Music New York festival. And good god people, PLEASE remember to vote on Tuesday! I still haven’t gotten the absentee ballot that I applied for online, but I did receive a paper version of the same application in the mail yesterday, which didn’t exactly inspire confidence. I’ve already decided that if I don’t get it I’m masking up and heading out to the polls—if I can shop for non-essentials like blood oranges as I did earlier this week, I can certainly take on the same degree of risk in order to participate in our democratic process.  WNYC put out this handy voter guide if you’ve been a bit lax about keeping up with some of the hyperlocal races in your district. 

Enjoy the weekend, all, stay safe, and try to give yourself a break—every single one of us deserves it! 

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