June 19, 2023
By Justice Miller
On Saturday, June 18, 2023, the Hezekiah Walker Center for Gospel Music at VUU hosted its Third Annual Juneteenth Celebration, a gospel family picnic honoring Bishop Hezekiah Walker and the Center for Gospel Music. The day was filled with music, food, and fun.
The celebration kicked off with performances from Hezekiah Walker and special guests, including:
The VUU Gospel Choir
The Legendary Ingramettes
Vincent Bohanan & SOV
Charles Butler & Trinity
Donte McCutchen & The Levitical Priests
"The city has come out to the great university that I love so much to share and celebrate not only the goodness of the Lord but celebrate freedom, our heritage, and our culture,” said Donte McCutchen, VUU Coordinator of Wellness and leader of The Levitical Priests gospel group.
Food trucks, beverages, fun activities, and more were also at the celebration. The day's highlight was NARSAAH STEAMnet's E-Sports Tournament of Champions gaming truck. The National Alliance of Resident Services in Affordable and Assisted Housing (NAR- SAAH) STEAM Net and the Young STEM Professionals are two non-profit 501(c)3 organizations creating a roadmap for advancing STEM careers for underserved residents. The roadmap will provide youth, young adults, STEM professionals, STEM educators, and research centers across the United States with skills to continuously participate in a multidisciplinary fashion to improve talent - now and in the future. (Stemnet)
"We have a public/private partnership with communities throughout the U.S., where we are creating a national STEM program,” said Greg Washington, Executive Director NARSAAH STEAMnet. We are meeting kids where they are through E-sports and game needs, and from there, we're collaborating with different organizations and partnerships to bring STEM into our underserved, under-resourced communities. VUU is one of our first HBCU organizations that we're partnering with, and we're doing this under The White House HBCU Initiative, where we are helping make HBCUs the anchor institutions in our community,” he added.
Family and friends of all ages had the opportunity to battle against each other on the many gaming machines provided.
VUU also hosted Councilman Michael Jones, Candidate for Virginia House of Delegates District 77, and Richard Walker, Candidate for Virginia House of Delegates District 79, as they spoke about Juneteenth and the forthcoming elections on June 20.
Juneteenth marks the official abolition of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, federal forces came to Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and assure the freedom of all enslaved people. The Black community recognizes this day in honor of our forefathers and those who were enslaved people throughout America's 400-year history, despite the reality that racial injustice persists in our culture to this day.
"I am an alumnus of Virginia Union. I attended here in 1968-1969 and part of '70 and had an extraordinary experience,” said Mrs. Hasheem, VUU alumna. Union is part of why I returned to Richmond, Virginia, years later. It's exciting to commemorate our emancipation, honor our ancestors, and stand on the holy land that is VUU. We are grateful to be here and see the Black community having such a wonderful celebration," Hasheem added.
The Juneteenth Gospel Picnic was a chance for people to get together for friendship and enjoyment and to commemorate the Black community's liberation.
VUU plans to host another Juneteenth celebration next year and will continue to pay tribute to this important day in Black history every year.