LEWISTON — “We’re going to have a New Orleans party!”

With those jubilant words, Glen David Andrews, the lead of the New Orleans-based Glen David Andrews Band, kicked off Lewiston’s Juneteenth parade Wednesday afternoon.

Part of the Maine Inside Out’s fourth annual Juneteenth festival, the parade flooded Lewiston streets with joy, dancing, New Orleans-style jazz and even circus performances. Starting at the Public Theater at 31 Maple St., the parade proceeded to Kennedy Park, where onlookers gathered to revel in the exuberance of the parade.

Maine Inside Out is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 and based in Lewiston. It uses theater and art to help marginalized groups get in tune with the issues that face their community and advocate for change. The group “works in prisons and schools, and especially for folks who do not have voices and decision-making spaces,” Co-Executive Director Joseph Jackson said.

The festival, which was titled The City that Carries Us: Pain, Streets and Heartbeats, was more than just the parade. The festival included an opening ceremony at the Public Theater and a block party at Kennedy Park, which lasted until the early evening.


It was more than just a celebration.

Reflecting on what Juneteenth meant to him, Jackson explained that “it is also a moment of grief.”

For Jackson, Juneteenth is personal. A native of Texas, he grew up celebrating Juneteenth — long before it became a federal holiday. Celebrated by Black communities across the nation for over a century, Juneteenth commemorates the day that enslaved people in Texas found out they were free — two years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed America’s slaves. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 following the nationwide protests that rocked the country after the death of George Floyd.

After learning about the Emancipation Proclamation, Jackson explained that Black communities in former Confederate states faced two options: They could choose anger or happiness.

“That the folks that heard about it chose celebration, chose joy … is very significant,” he said. It’s a reminder to us that “we (also) choose joy and love.”

Choosing joy and love, Jackson argued, does not mean abandoning grief.


Nimo Abdiazia celebrates after sliding down the chute in a bounce house during Wednesday’s Juneteenth celebration in Kennedy Park in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

To acknowledge the bittersweet nature of the holiday, Maine Inside Out included in the Juneteenth festival a collective mourning ritual. The ritual, Jackson explained, is one of the organization’s traditions. At the opening ceremony, event-goers were encouraged to write about their own grief on ribbons, which were attached to poles carried during the parade. The mourning ritual also featured a container full of water and rose petals. Ceremoniously poured on a nearby tree at Kennedy Park, the water represented the community’s grief “returning to the earth,” Jackson said during a speech at the park.

The festival, especially its rambunctious parade, drew a large crowd of onlookers in the afternoon. Some spectators didn’t know the parade was happening.

Joneldy Mumono opens a snack during Wednesday’s Juneteenth celebration in Kennedy Park in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Watching the parade from his car, Brandon Michaud explained that he came across the parade “while on the way to work.” He said he enjoyed watching, showing his support for Lewiston’s diverse community and receiving candy from participants.

In addition to bringing commuters and marchers together, the festival also introduced some onlookers to Juneteenth and its history for the first time.

Adriana Carter said she “didn’t know about Juneteenth” until she was on her way to the festival.

“Seeing the community get together like this” and learning the history behind Juneteenth was “beautiful,” Carter said.


The festival was even more special for those involved in it.

Peter Blackstone, one of the musicians in the parade, expressed excitement about being an integral part of the city’s Juneteenth celebration. A former history teacher, he said, “I know a lot about this day and the history of it. I think it is really important for all of us to celebrate the progress that has happened and the progress that still needs to occur.”

As he walked on stilts for the parade and block party, Miguel Angel Pacheco said, “The parade was great. It was hot (but) it was also hot in energy and emotion. The music was vibrant. The people were vibrant. I even forgot how hot it was for a second.”

Reflecting on what Juneteenth means to him, Pacheco explained that the holiday is about being “in solidarity with people who have been oppressed and to connect with something that is larger than myself.” From Venezuela, Pacheco said that he “resonates with (the Black community’s) fight for freedom” and “the struggle (against) injustice.”

Nadia Simon, left, leads her sister, Graciana, on Wednesday as they walk through Kennedy Park during the Juneteenth celebration in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

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