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Black artists in Greensboro hope a special Juneteenth production sparks conversation and healing

Royal Expressions Juneteenth Arts Celebration tells the Juneteenth story through an artistic expression of dance and music while exploring what freedom means in 2020

GREENSBORO, N.C. — June 19, Juneteenth, or Freedom Day is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

In 1865, Union soldiers told slaves in Galveston, Texas they were free.  Keep in mind, it was more than 2 years after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which became official on January 1, 1863.

The day is now known as Juneteenth and is commemorated in several ways. One of the most common is through education and learning more about Black culture and Black history.  A group of talented Triad performers is helping in that effort.  The Royal Expressions Contemporary Ballet Company in Greensboro revived its Juneteenth Arts Celebration for three special virtual presentations on Friday, June 19th.

The film tells the Juneteenth story through an artistic expression of dance, music, and spoken word while exploring what freedom means in 2020.  The group's founding director, Princess Johnson explains why the film and other Juneteenth events are important in our nation. 

"It's always been a concerning thing in our community and its the driving force behind Black Lives Matter and I just felt like our community could really use some artistic expression and healing," said Johnson.  "We can share our pain and our grief but also our resilience and our joy and what makes us so unique and defines our culture."

The production was filmed at the historic Magnolia House in Greensboro which served as a safe place for Black artists, musicians, and performers who were traveling during segregation.  It features the Royal Expressions dancers performing to Maya Angelou's famous poem, Still I Rise.  Greensboro native and world-renown professional singer Vanessa Ferguson will also perform an original piece.

Johnson hopes the 30-minute film will spark conversations within the community that can be shared and discussed safely online.

"We strongly encourage you to watch and discuss.  We want to spark a conversation within homes.  I'm so excited that this holiday is really starting to get more and more popular," said Johnson.  "As people are gathering together take time, sit down and we would love for you to watch this with us and we can chat together online as well."

RELATED: City of Greensboro to host all-day virtual Juneteenth event

The first showing has been moved to Friday, June 19 at 3 pm on Youtube.  You can watch it by clicking here.

You can also watch it tonight on Facebook at 7 pm by clicking here and Instagram at 9 pm by following this link.

For more information about the Juneteenth Arts Celebration online and Royal Expressions Contemporary Ballet, visit their website or email Princess Johnson at princess@royalexpressions.org.