Honoring Black joy and freedom struggles in the Rust Belt

Juneteenth, celebrated each year on June 19, commemorates when enslaved Black people in Texas were notified that they were in fact freetwo years after the Emancipation Proclamation marked what should have been the end of their bondage. Though it has recently garnered mainstream recognition, for generations, Black communities across the country have celebrated Juneteenth in their own unique ways. It’s special in Texas, but the beautiful thing about this day is that Black folks in many places can honor it in ways that embody their own histories, cultures, and traditions. In the Rust Belt, this manifests in a vibrancy that reflects the diversity of Black experiences here.

Black folks have always observed this day as one of celebration and liberation, through the context of the ongoing freedom struggle. At Belt, we feel it’s always important to publish stories that acknowledge both the hurdles that Black residents have faced in this region and also what communities have built in spite of them. The readings on this list are a few of countless stories of Black life here, but we invite you to read them, learn from them, and find your own contribution to our collective liberation.

-Njaimeh Njie, Visual Editor


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Art & Creativity

Liberation is a Long Haul: Lessons from Juneteenth
By Jakeya Caruthers

“Aretha Was Detroit” 
By Aaron Foley

“John Edgar Wideman and Writing to Save Lives”
By RA Washington

“Preserving Black Artists’ Legacies in Pittsburgh” 
By Njaimeh Njie


History & Neighborhoods

“Commemorating Chicago’s Red Summer of 1919”
By Pat Nabong

“Home Again at the Southside Reunion”
By Bob Campbell

“Richard Hatcher’s Gary” 
By Dena Holland-Neal

“The Last Children of Mill Creek”
By Vivian Gibson


Everyday Life

“Election Week Through the Lenses of Black Women”
By Njaimeh Njie, Da’Shaunae Marisa, Nyia Sissac, Rachel Elise Thomas, and Yasmin Yassin

“Life and Belonging in Knox County, Ohio”
By Sean Decatur

“Traveling While Black In Indiana”
By Tanisha C. Ford

“Unfertile Ground” 
By Vanessa Taylor


Organizing & Resistance

“No Cop Academy and the Movement to Defund the Police”
By Kiran Misra

“What HappenedAnd Is HappeningIn Minneapolis”
By Vanessa Taylor

“The People’s Free Food Project”
By Justin Agrelo, Alexandra Arriaga and Sarah Conway

“Solidarity, Trauma, and a Moment of Relief in Minneapolis”
By Andrea Ellen Reed



Cover image: The Oak Park drill team makes its way through North Minneapolis in parade formation as part of Juneteenth celebrations. Star Tribune via Getty.

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