About the Macknificent Freedom Fest
The Macknificent Freedom Fest purpose is to align, build, and crystalize the community body.
The Macknificent Freedom Fest connects leaders and organizations that embody a collective approach for community welfare and events; locally and abroad.
History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth, short for “June Nineteenth marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. Two-and-a-half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) news arrived in Galveston, Texas, brought by a Union Army Major General Gordan Granger. Why did word take so long to arrive? Well, it’s Texas! Folklore has it that the messenger carrying the news of the Emancipation was murdered enroute or the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain their enslaved labor force. Perhaps federal troops waited for the slave owners to reap the last cotton harvest before going to Texas. Whatever the reason, Juneteenth (June 19th) stands as our longest held celebration – the day legal slavery ended. The general time marker when all became fully aware that they could leave the plantation. On June 17, 2021, it officially became a federal holiday.
Fort Wayne History of Juneteenth
Here in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Juneteenth holiday has been observed since the early 1990s. The celebration was preceded by the Pontiac Street Festival, which showcased pride of black business ownership and overall fellowship and familyhood that existed in the neighborhood. Owl Bank was a participant and sponsor of the event. It was supported by local businesses, such as Bob Hawkins Fish, Steve Williams, Robert “Tall Man Records” Hatcher, Thelma Russell with the Gingerbread House, the Pontiac Mall, local barbershops, and many other businesses participated and sponsored.
Chief Johanna Ice-Gold, accepted the torch of leadership and started a bookstore called Amandla! Inspired by the Pontiac Street Festival and Kwanzaa Celebrations (held at the Jennings Center and Links Wonderland by the Alkebu-Lan Umoja Institute) she then implemented the Harambee Street Festival, which saw its inaugural event back on Pontiac Street. From Pontiac Street, the annual event relocated to Weisser Park. Harambee Festival Lasted until the early 2000’s (2008).
Also in the Mid 90s, several leaders began teaching Juneteenth history through various community programs. Chief Condra Ridley facilitated several programs highlighting the history and significance of Juneteenth at the Pontiac Library. She was one of the early pioneers in Fort Wayne bringing awareness to the holiday, along with Mr. Eric Hackley. Mr. Hackley hosted neighborhood block parties to bring awareness in the ’90s.
2004 - 2019
There at Weisser Park Center, Baba Kweku Akan came to an awakening and discovery of his family origins and accepted the torch to reintroduce the annual Kwanzaa Celebration and the annual Juneteenth Celebration to a new generation of children and families. Baba Akan Afrikanized the Weisser Park Center and created a haven for the neighborhood.
For 15 years the Juneteenth event was hosted by Weisser Park Center. For the first 5 years it was under the leadership of Baba Kweku Akan, the supervisor of Weisser Park Center. Upon Baba Akan relocating to a different city, for the last 10 years the current supervisor of Weisser Park Youth Center, Ms. Zynette Paige, continued facilitating the event.
In 2020, due to the pandemic Weisser Park Youth Center did not host the Community Juneteenth Celebration. Furthermore, in light of the public heightened racial injustice in our country, Ms. Zynette Paige felt it was time for the Juneteenth Celebration to be totally controlled by the African American community instead of the City Parks Department. At that time, since Mr. Adrian Curry participated in Juneteenth, since its inception in Fort Wayne, and understood the history and relevance of Juneteenth, Ms. Paige encouraged him to begin facilitating the celebration moving forward. Juneteenth has been a big part of Mr. Curry’s life as his mother, Ms. Camille Curry and grandmother, Ms. Costella Mack were heavily involved at the Weisser Park Youth Center and assisting with organizing the celebration when he was growing up. He participated as a youth every year setting up the event, performing spoken word, and performing with his student-leaders from Dono Ntoaso, Akoma, and The Art Leadership Center.
In the same year Mr. Curry received the support to begin facilitating the event, after hearing word that Weisser would not be hosting the event, several organizations across the city organized quickly to ensure the community was still able to celebrate this significant holiday. Black Women of Excellence, The Health Hut, Bigger Than Us Inc., Keller Williams, and Ladies building together took the initiative and hosted separate events. Each event was wonderful in its own right. Mr. Curry and The Art Leadership Center (ALC) were able to coordinate with the leaders of each organization and, with their full support, connect the isolated events. It was decided that it would be best to unify (given the circumstances). The organizations were very graceful. They were open to adjusting the time of their events so that everyone would be able to attend each celebration in order to make it one seamless Juneteenth Celebration. They also allowed The ALC to conduct their Opening Ceremonies as a unifying factor. Each party put their pride aside and worked together in the true spirit of unity. There was a focus on bringing togetherness instead of dividing the community. This concept would be the bases for the ALC forming the Juneteenth Collaborative in 2021, organizations working together to put on one major Juneteenth Celebration.
“Juneteenth is about Unity” and as Mr. Curry looked to create an event in 2021, he decided to reach out to the cultural community elders and those organizations that facilitated Juneteenth events in 2020, including Ladies Building Together, Bigger Than Us Inc., The Health Hut, as well as Black Women of Excellence. “I could not move forward without the advice and consent from the Council of Elders”. He called everyone together and asked, “Do we want to have a unified Juneteenth Celebration?” And that is how the Juneteenth Collaborative formed to bring the 2021 celebration to life. Each organization implemented their event on one of the days of the week-long celebration.
There was a week-long celebration starting with the Elders Jubilee Brunch at Turner Chapel AME, the oldest African-American church in the City. Here the Proclamation of Juneteenth becoming a local holiday (June 13th, 2021), in Fort Wayne, was made. Juneteenth was later in the week deemed a National Holiday (June 17th, 2021).
The passing of the torch ceremony took place on Saturday, June 19th, 2021 (10am) before The inaugural Art Leadership Center Promenade, at the roundabout in front of Weisser Park Center. The Torch was passed from Ms. Paige, as representation of the cultural and spiritual elders, to Mr. Curry, as representation of the cultural and spiritual youth who will carry the burden of responsibility and forward the mission. The ceremony was executed in righteousness and order so that we are sure to honor of our foremothers, forefathers, and creator.
Collaborative Organizations: African Hellenic Society, Allen County Young Democrats, Alyse Capital Group, American Legion, Big Momma’s Kitchen, Bigger Than Us Inc., Black Women of Excellence, Boss Lady Majorette Dance, Brain Geeks, Bring Black Up, Center for Nonviolence, Change Makers, Courageous Healing Inc., Elijah’s Bakery, Growing Lives Foundation, Growing Minds, Human Agricultural Co-Op, Humanity for the Win, Identity Counts Cultural Collective, In Tune, Ladies Building Together, MLK Club, Moors in the Fort, NAACP, Omotayo, Optimistics Enterprise, Rezz Media, Rockaway Carriage, The Content Creators, Timothy Lymon Foundation, The Art Leadership Center, The Health Hut, Tygeron Graphics, Unity Barber Shop, Urban League, Urban Update.
In 2022, the Juneteenth Collaborative became the Macknificent Freedom Fest and is now presented by The Art Center Inc. The Macknificent Freedom fest now serves as the banner of the week-long Juneteenth Celebration and has been proclaimed to be the official Juneteenth Celebration in Fort Wayne, IN.
The naming of the Macknificent Freedom Fest occurred in 3 phases. In 2021, Mr. Austin Mack held the Mack Fest Allstar Basketball game at McMillen Park (Mac Park), while the Cozy Mack Award was being presented to Ms. Zynette Paige, at the Freedom Day Juneteenth Celebration at “Mac Park”. Mac Park symbolized the past with the event being hosted and facilitated by Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation. Cozy Mack served as a symbol of tradition and culture, that must be upheld, being that Costella Mack was among Baba Kweku Akan, Ms. Zynette Paige, and Ms. Camille Curry implementing and organizing the celebration for 15 years. Along with the Proclaiming of Costella Mack Day on Dec. 17th, 2020, these were the signs that Mr. Curry observed in the 1st phase; “the alignment of the name “Mack”.
The purpose of the Macknificent Freedom Fest is to align, build, and crystalize the community body, or to connect leaders and organizations with a collective approach towards community welfare and events; locally and abroad. With the purpose in mind, it was significant to bring the Mack Fest together with the Freedom Day Juneteenth Celebration. This is the same initiative and process that ensued in 2020, bringing organizations together that had an invested interest in facilitating Juneteenth events. Each event had its own name, therefore a name needed to be determined for this Grand Culminating Event. It was only right to combine the two names, “Mack Fest and Freedom Day”, once Mr. Mack expressed his willingness to join forces. Fulfilling the purpose of connecting was the 2nd phase of the naming process.
The 3rd phase of the process was to determine a name that represented the past, the present and the future. A name that honored the origins of the local celebration, tradition and previous torch bearers, and that connected the Mack fest and the Freedom Day Celebration. Ms. Camille Curry, advised with wise council that it must also represent the people in the community well. She said “What about Macknificent”. We agreed that the name most certainly represented our community and its people. It was then presented to the Council of Elders for approval. It was approved, as all was aligned and in order. Rebranding the celebration was significant to maintain cultural ownership and integrity as the holiday became federalized and therefore appropriated.