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Black Culture Week provides ‘modern twist’ to Juneteenth celebration

Weeklong activities give recognition to the achievements of African Americans.

TJ Crawford, founder of Black Culture Week
TJ Crawford, founder of Black Culture Week
Provided by Seed Lynn

The founder of Black Culture Week said a “modern twist” is due on the celebration of Juneteenth, and encourages Chicago to enhance its recognition of the historic day.

Chicago native TJ Crawford, founder of BCW, said he’s excited to continue making an impact on Chicago by inspiring the Black community. The week’s theme: Celebrate, Commemorate and Collaborate Black culture.

“I have gone to many [Juneteenth] celebrations over the years and I didn’t see the type of participation it deserves. Black accomplishments are not given the credit they should have. Our culture is our magic. We specifically picked this week so it was in correlation with Juneteenth. I believe our week is a modern twist to celebrate Juneteeth,” Crawford said.

Juneteenth is a cultural holiday celebrating the day, June 19, 1865, enslaved black people were emancipated in the United States.

There will be an “US vs Everybody” panel discussion about reparations, culture and self-determination in the black community Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Africa International House, 6200 S. Drexel Ave. Panelists include activist Lacreshia Birts, Dr. Conrad Worrill and community organizer and entrepreneur Toussaint Werner.

“We support black culture because it is the foundation of our ancestors. [Black Culture Week] allows us to learn and connect with one another, ” said Founder and Executive Director of Africa International House, Psaingbey Wooder.

Black Culture Week honorees
Black Culture Week honored activists, entrepreneurs and philanthropists June 15, 2019, at Josephine’s Cooking, 436 E. 79th St. Top Row: Duane Powell, Dr. Flavian Prince, TJ Crawford (BCW Curator), Willie “JR” Fleming, Anton Seals Seated: Brandie Booker (BCW Ambassador), Val Free, Ayesha Jaco, La’Keisha Gray-Sewell, Rita Lee
Provided by Seed Lynn

The week kicked off Saturday with an opening reception and fundraiser honoring contributions from black men and women in the community. La’ Keisha Gray-Sewell was among 10 honorees.

Gray-Sewell founded Girls Like Me, a nonprofit organization. It aims to help push out the negative Black stigma and help young black girls understand they have a voice.

“I hold this as a true honor. I pray it is evident in the work I do, the choices I make and my engagement and love for everyone in the community. Being acknowledged makes me feel like I’m doing it something right. I take this honor as a challenge to do it everyday and always,” she said.

Black Culture Week Art & Activism Panel
Panelist and attendees at Black Culture Week’s Art & Activism panel discussion June 17, 2019, at Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave.

Brandie Booker, a BCW Ambassador, has been involved in many of the artistic development aspects for the celebration.

“Art therapy can help us because we can express thoughts and feelings,” Booker said. “This discussion will help us depict art as a tool for community healing, and how art can be used to make a social and political impact.”

The week will culminate with a ‘Historic Homes of Bronzeville Tour’ on June 23.

For more information about events for Black Culture Week: