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Juneteenth and Parade the City

June 17, 2021
Three people sitting on top of a colorful quilt.

Extended Family members Brenda Parker (left) and Keesha McMillan (right) helped create this quilt for Parade the City with the assistance of Sue Berry (center), who stitched it together.

Parade the City is a reimagination of the annual Parade the Circle. It coincides with the opening of the CMA’s Community Arts Center, the new home of the community arts program which hosts Parade the Circle, Chalk Festival, Winter Lights Lantern Festival, and Studio Go. For Parade the City, local artists collaborated with community groups throughout Cleveland to create eight celebratory art installations across the city.

CMA’s 2021 Parade the City map

One of the art installations is the Extended Family Underground Railroad quilt, which commemorates Juneteenth, by artist Sue Berry in collaboration with Extended Family.

Juneteenth flag

Juneteenth, a word that combines June and nineteenth, is a federal holiday that marks the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. It is also refered to as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day. The holiday, which originated in Galveston, Texas, is celebrated on June 19, the anniversary of an announcement in 1865 by Union Army General Gordon Granger proclaiming the freedom of slaves in Texas. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, delivered almost two and a half years prior, officially outlawed slavery in all states in rebellion against the Union. However, the Proclamation’s enforcement depended upon victory of Union troops in rebel territory.

Extended Family members Brenda Parker (left) and Keesha McMillan (right) helped create this quilt for Parade the City with the assistance of Sue Berry (center), who stitched it together.

“The quilt was made in collaboration with the CMA and a diversified group of women throughout Greater Cleveland,” says Keesha McMillian, co-founder of Extended Family. “This quilt carries the spirit of creativity and determination through the women who had a hand in creating this work of art.”

The women’s circle included master designers, seamstresses, first-time quilters, published authors, and maturing writers. They shared stories and pictures about the history that had been passed on from their ancestors, and they spoke on the injustices they experienced.

“The women’s quilting circle continued to grow as they continued the quilting, talking, sewing, and bonding with each other until the revelations to address the struggles of our next generations through the quilt became clear,” McMillian says. “The methods the women used to reach the destination of discovery and completion to be whole was different, but it was amazingly the same. The women reached the conclusion to make a commitment to use their voice and their hands to help bridge the gaps in our shared space on this earth.”

Members of the the women’s quilting circle showing the finished quilt.

Their thoughts are gathered here in their joint statement about the quilt:

“America, the Land of the Free, with our glorious tapestry, our tattered fabric, our hidden stitches and our embroidered skin tattoos, concealing the pain inflicted by broken needles that pinched us, that scared us, and the uneven patterns that divided us. Unbelievably, the quilt mirrored the paths we stitched together to make a runway to freedom. We did not try to ignore the broken systems. We all desire an end to racial discord, and weaving a tapestry that tied the past to the present and building the future filled with hope is what emerged from the cracks of the concrete walls of the world. The quilt is formed to comfort, bless, and educate. It is a majestic piece that weaves together the power of relationships, raises awareness, provides insight and understanding, wisdom and healing.”

The Extended Family is honored to present this piece to those who are open to learning about the African American journey to freedom of mind, body, and spirit and about how to support one another.

This installation is traveling to multiple locations around Cleveland. Honor Juneteeth and visit this installation at the following locations:

· June 19, at 11:00 a.m. — The African American Cultural Garden, The Peace Centennial Plaza, 1051 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

· June 20, at 1:30 p.m. — Forest Hill Church, 3031 Monticello Rd. (In the parking lot during the Juneteenth weekend celebration).

· June 26, at 1:00 p.m. — Restore Cleveland Hope, Cozad Bates House, University Circle, 11508 Mayfield Rd.


Ideastream Public Media published a radio story about the Underground Railroad Quilt. Learn more about this Parade the City installation and the vision for the Community Arts Center.

Stop by the Community Arts Center and then be sure to view the Extended Family Underground Railroad quilt and the other Parade the City installations around town.