News & Ideas  -  Celebrating Juneteenth: A Testament to Freedom, Unity, and Democracy


This past weekend, our vibrant community came together in Downtown Dayton to commemorate Juneteenth, a pivotal moment in American history, marking the end of slavery. This day not only serves as a reminder of our ongoing commitment to achieving equality and justice but also as a testament to the power of freedom, unity, and democracy. Reflecting on this day reminds us of the crucial role we all play in shaping a just future. This responsibility fuels our ongoing efforts at the Kettering Foundation to advance thriving and inclusive democracies.

On the lawn of Levitt Pavilion, hundreds of people gathered in a beautiful display of community. The event featured a series of artistic performances and ceremonies curated by the Home of Urban Creative Arts Community. These expressions of unity included poetry, African dance and drumming, local musicians, ancestral ceremonies, and creative panels that displayed heartfelt expressions of hope and freedom. In the spirit of celebration, attendees also enjoyed food trucks and a grand finale performance by Grammy-nominated EU featuring Sugar Bear, bringing joy, laughter, dance, and freedom to an intergenerational audience.

Sierra Leone, a notable curator of this event and friend of the Kettering Foundation, led the performances, infusing the celebration with powerful artistic expressions that resonated with the spirit of Juneteenth. Her tireless work, alongside her family, to organize programming and events for Juneteenth in the Downtown Dayton community has been instrumental, and each year, more and more people have attended. As proud sponsors of this event, we were honored to open the event with a message from Kettering Foundation Senior Advisor for State and Local Government, Valerie Lemmie. We also took pleasure in welcoming our Dayton Democracy Fellows, whose daily commitment to community engagement and leadership embodies the essence of Juneteenth and aligns with our mission.

At the Kettering Foundation, we are grateful to everyone who joined us in this meaningful celebration. This remarkable display of presence and participation reflects our collective dedication to advancing a more just and inclusive democracy. Let us carry the spirit of Juneteenth with us every day as we work toward a better future.