‘Kumbayah The Juneteenth Story’ coming to Rochester this week

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(ABC 6 News) – People across Minnesota and the country are coming together to celebrate a newly recognized holiday, “Juneteenth” which marks the emancipation of enslaved people in America.

Now, two groups from the Twin Cities have teamed up to help educate students about that day with a play called, ‘Kumbayah The Juneteenth Story.’

The play became a reality about 27 years ago before Juneteenth was recognized as a holiday to educate the community on why this day is so important and the play, as well as society, has come a long way since then.

It’s now a full 90-minute, two-act play that highlights past and present struggles for the black community in America.

Every year, the month of June means something special to communities in Minnesota. Twin Cities woman, Rose Mcgee, wants to make sure everyone knows why.

She’s the writer of “Kumbayah The Juneteenth Story” and all month long she’s bringing this story to multiple places, including Rochester.

While Juneteenth has only been an official holiday for a few years, this story goes back almost three decades.

“There was always the parade and the big outdoor festival, but they were really concerned that people weren’t really understanding what Juneteenth is or was about,” said Mcgee.

She even admits that she wasn’t a complete expert on the day either.

“So, the next year. I just worked on developing it into more of a play. So, each year I would just continue to add more based upon what I was learning myself,” said Mcgee.

But entertainment is only a small part of the experience. Just as important is educating and shining a light on the struggles black people face everyday.

“Considering all that we have gone through we continue to hope that it will get better and in many ways, it certainly has, but we also know there are tremendous challenges,” said Mcgee.

Mcgee wants to make sure that everyone knows about these challenges, so her organization ‘Sweet Potato Comfort Pie’ has teamed up with the Minnesota Humanities Center to bring the play and its message across Minnesota.

Mcgee says that it wouldn’t be possible without community support.

“We wanted the community to be a part of it. We wanted the community to see themselves within it because that adds to building that beloved community. So, when we talk about how we get there I would say it’s a lot of small acts or partnership and collaboration and seeing one another that’s critically important,” said Kevin Lindsey with the Minnesota Humanities Center.

The play will be in town on Thursday, June 22, at the Mayo Civic Center.