About Juneteenth Downeast
Learn more about Juneteenth Downeast from the leaders of the organization, Jacques H. Newell Taylor, Janine "JG" Georgette, and Shemaya Laurel:
A growing community
Juneteenth Downeast started as an annual Juneteenth commemoration, now in its third year, and is growing to encompass additional multifaceted ways to give people of the African diaspora a place to connect and opportunities to replenish that which was taken away.
One of the reasons Juneteenth Downeast was formed was in response to the lack of opportunities for Black people to see our faces, stories, and talents represented and celebrated in the larger, predominantly white community. By holding African-American centric events we invite all people of color to come together and engage with all that we have to give culturally, spiritually and communally.
Weekend of outdoor connection
This year's inaugural weekend events, which will be held on June 17 and 18, are being created in response to the great value we see in building opportunities for Black people and other people of color to engage and explore together in the outdoors. Activities will include camping at Lamoine State Park, kayaking/canoeing, sailing, hiking, fishing, and swimming.
The goal of these weekend events is twofold: First, this is an opportunity to connect with, learn about, and reclaim our ancient relationship with the water. Second, it will open avenues for Black Mainer participation in these activities so that we have a viable pathway toward further pursuing activities from which we have historically been denied.
Addressing a gap
As we have been working to heal, uplift and reenergize Black members of the community we have again and again turned to discuss one of the greatest sources of renewal, joy and connection with all that exists: nature.
The coast of Maine is one of the treasures of the natural world and we weren’t there. Not on the beaches, or on the boats, we weren’t kayaking or sailing, in fact, many of us don't even know how to swim. Even a cursory glance at the complicated history Black Americans have with the water made it clear that this basic survival skill, which is often passed on from generation to generation, was a gap that needed filling due to the well documented, historical lack of access to swimming pools and swimming lessons for people of color in this country.
As Juneteenth Downeast looked to introduce Black people to the opportunities for renewal that the water provides, we realized that we needed to also address teaching Black and other people of color how to swim. Besides the issue of water safety, swimming is a foundational component of comfort on and in the water. How can Black people make use of the amazing revitalizing effects of the ocean, if we don’t feel comfortable there? Juneteenth Downeast is determined to help change that. We hope that you'll join us, on and in the water.