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Art Center’s Upcoming Juneteenth Fest a “Macknificent” Celebration

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Julia Meek/WBOI
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Desire & Adrian are proud of the hard work and spirit they have collectively put forth in preparation for this year's event.

As part of Fort Wayne’s official Juneteenth celebration, the Art Leadership Center’s Macknificent Freedom Fest takes place this Saturday in McMillen Park.

The Center’s overarching artcentric focus is designed for the systematic development of leaders of character with a global conscience that serve underdeveloped and underrepresented communities nationally and internationally.

WBOI’s Julia Meek talks with the organization’s founder and director, Adrian Curry, and its Captain Ambassador, Desire Buckhanon, about the festival’s significance.

Event Information:

ALC’s Macknificent Freedom Fest
@ McMillen Park, Fort Wayne
Saturday, June 18th, 2022
Promenade down Oxford Street 10:30 a.m.
All-star Basketball Showcase 2:15 p.m.
Midnight Mimosas Band 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

For more information visit the ALC Facebook page or ALC website.

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Courtesy/ALC
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Desire Buckhanon: Thank you for having us

Julia Meek: Adrian Curry, Desire Buckhanon, welcome.

Adrian Curry: Hey there.

Desire Buckhanon: Hi.

Julia Meek: With Juneteenth on the horizon you all at the Art Learning Center are expanding on last year's inaugural festivities. Mr. Curry, what does it mean to you guys collectively now to carry this honor forward?

Adrian Curry: Collectively, it is the burden of responsibility. (chuckles) It's an honor, quite frankly.

Julia Meek: And certainly it comes with responsibility, as you saw in the formative stages last year. We're sitting here talking about it, you have survived. Feeling good...

Adrian Curry: This is true. (laughs)

Julia Meek: And very happy that Juneteenth is on the horizon.

Adrian Curry: Yes, ma'am.

Julia Meek: Desire, actually, you are the Captain A mbassador of this group. What does it look like from your young perspective?

Desire Buckhanon: Well, this year, I feel like it's going very fast. It can be overwhelming due to that. Well, we have to pile up on practices, make sure we have the shows ready for us to perform. And I feel like this year it's more on us , because we're more involved in like the meetings for dream team.

Julia Meek: So you've been a part of this process beginning last year?

Desire Buckhanon: Yes, ma'am.

Julia Meek: Okay, so you have stake and actually experience in the whole event. Now while we have Mr. Curry here. How'd you do last year, Mr. Curry?

Adrian Curry: Last year, she did fantastic. She's a leader. She's truly a Captain Ambassador. And this year, she stepped up as the vice chair for programming.

Julia Meek: You are going to be a freshman this year at Northside, so very good. You all take the art leadership, the youth program very, very seriously, then?

Desire Buckhanon: Yes, ma'am.

Julia Meek: Now one of the biggest developments of Juneteenth this year is celebrating it as our newest National Holiday. How does that fan the flame if you will, you know, really amplify the excitement for you personally?

Adrian Curry: It really gets me excited. At first I thought, you know, this is appropriation. Right? And then I realized this is an opportunity ,what's the silver lining? We're going to be able to bring awareness, we're going to be able to educate the masses of the people now on what Juneteenth is and what this movement is all about.

Julia Meek: What about you Desire? How does it make you feel?

Desire Buckhanon: I'm very proud how much we have accomplished this year. I'm also ready. At first I was kind of nervous about the progress and the journey of it. But I'm very, very proud and ready for it to come.

Julia Meek: You want more. You got a taste of it last year, now you're wanting more?

Desire Buckhanon: Yes, ma'am.

Julia Meek: Very good. Once again, you are including a basic weekend of exciting events in that southeast quadrant along Oxford and in McMillen Park. That's where the Mack Fest comes from. What kind of a response did last year bring you and your organizations that took part in this?

Adrian Curry: Well, you want to know what we had 35 organizations and 70 members come together within a short period of time. And so just that in itself, we saw unity in the community! (laughs) And then for them to come out--3000, 4000 people, you know, it was a grassroots movement, a grassroots event. And so I was very pleased with the turnout and I look forward to building on what we did last year.

Julia Meek: It was your first time in that kind of a spotlight, Desire, last year?

Desire Buckhanon: Yes, ma'am.

Julia Meek: What did you think by the whole thing, especially those numbers?

Desire Buckhanon: Well, to start off, during the Promenade, I was really anxious. And then once you got to the McMillen Park, we kind of got to rest and then we got to see how much people it was. Right when we got on stage I was kinda like, oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! But the more you perform, that's when you get to relax. And once you get done, you're just like, Okay, we did it.

Julia Meek: And that's all part of the Fest?

Desire Buckhanon: Yes, ma'am.

Julia Meek: And would you tell us how it is going to unfold, Mr. Curry, beginning with the Keepers of the Light Ceremony and that Promenade down Oxford Street to the park that Desire just mentioned.

Adrian Curry: Yes, ma'am. The Keepers of the Light ceremony will take place at 10am at the roundabout at Weiser Park, and at 10:30 the participants for the Promenade will arrive the Art Leadership Center Promenade, and we will saunter down to Oxford and Warsaw where we will start the actual parade at Optimistics. That's the first black owned business on Oxford Street. Then we will traverse the Plains of Oxford until we enter the park.

Julia Meek: McMillen Park.

Adrian Curry: Yes, ma'am. And there you will find that we will have an opening ceremony at 1:20 and the kickoff for the Mack Fest All Star Basketball Showcase will be at 2pm. That'd be the tip off, and there will be our headliner band, Midnight Mimosa'w from five to six. Outside of that there's going to be vendors, a Children's corner and Education corner, kickball game, flag football game, the whole nine.

Julia Meek: That's fantastic. Are we all excited about this, Desire?

Desire Buckhanon: Yes! I think I'm more excited about the performing but as you perform you can see all the other performers because we have singers, dancers, and I'm most excited for the basketball game but it's also going to be really exciting to see the flag football and the kickball tournament that's happening.

Julia Meek: Is this a rain or shine event?

Adrian Curry: This is a rain or shine event. There is no contingency plan, as long as it's not lightning! (chuckles) I think we're going to keep going. And one of the things we say at the Art Leadership Center, we say rain don't stop the house. Snow can't stop the house. No body stops the house.

Julia Meek: So basically, this has been a whole week of festivities, a lot of really meaningful ones, Mr. Curry. Now, Saturday is going to be a jam packed day. Sunday, there's an equally interesting event. Would you tell us about that?

Adrian Curry: Yes, ma'am. The Center for Non-violence is co-hosting this event. And it's sponsored by Barnes and Thornburg. It is an amazing event. It's a virtual event, Dr. Joy DeGruy will be speaking on post traumatic slave syndrome. And so this event is called the Racial Healing Conference. So it's a time for us to address the post traumatic slave syndrome that one may say that the black community has from chattel slavery.

Julia Meek: It's all part of the healing and all part of the going forward. What do you think that might net your group and the purpose of all of this to have that topic addressed in a virtual conversation with anybody being able to join in that wants to?

Adrian Curry: I think it provides a space for, you know, we kicked it off, we ramped things up. And then we kind of peak at the Macknificent Freedom Fest celebration on Saturday. And I think it's the perfect opportunity for us to come down off that high, if you will, and really face some of the things that are troubling us and allow us to move forward with a fresh mind.

Julia Meek: Your Art Leadership Program is fond of and actually embraces this quote by former President Barack Obama: "Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. It's a celebration of progress. It's an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible. And there is still so much work to do." Now, you stepped up to the task of taking that sentiment...

Adrian Curry: Torch.

Julia Meek: Yes, and the torch, because nobody had taken it in your generation. And educating the community about this last year, Mr. Curry. How has that changed you?

Adrian Curry: Oh, wow, you know, I'm still in the middle of that transformation. It's very humbling. It's also a lot of pressure. And one of the things we speak about at the Art Leadership Center is the fact that without pressure, we cannot crystallize. And so I'm embracing it. And it's fairly novel to me still, you know, it's almost surreal, but I'm embracing it, I'm stepping into it, I can feel that people are depending on me. And it's difficult. And there's times where I feel as if maybe I'm overwhelmed. But I take a deep breath and I realize that I'm serving the Most High. And I realize that I'm serving the community. And I feel great in doing that.

Julia Meek: Not only doing it through your art, your art leadership program, you have the most wonderful Stepping, performing, energized and beautiful celebration of your youth, your strength, your commitment, your dedication to the arts. In your mind, how does that symbolize what this change is that's gonna come?

Adrian Curry: I hear you loud and clear. Well, the Art Leadership Center'ss designed to systematically develop Renaissance scholars and artists with a global conscience that embody five Wells of leadership: Well read, ewll spoken, Well dressed, Well traveled, and Well balanced. And so through the art, we're able to express the discipline and the fortitude, if you will, that it takes to forward this mission. Now, if we're developing Renaissance leaders, that means that something that we are bringing a renaissance to must be asleep, or maybe dead, right? And so the Renaissance leader is truly a servant leader. The function of bringing about a renaissance is all about those leaders that are being developed, connecting people in organizations that embody a collective approach towards community welfare, okay? And so the idea is for them to present themselves to the community, which is a very outward expression of being a Renaissance leader. But at the same time, the more grassroots aspect is behind the scenes. Their behind the scenes, right? So you know, it's really letting the community know that these are those servant leaders that are coming your way. They're going to be connecting people in organizations, as well as cleaning the environment and making the world a better place.

Julia Meek: And being engaging and understanding--I get all of that that goes together. And so by now, Desire, you are heart and soul a part of it. What exactly does this signify in your heart? What can you do to affect that changed in the ways that Mr. Curry has been talking about, do you think?

Desire Buckhanon: I'm aspiring to be a vocalist and I feel going through this program, it's helping me be as he said, Well spoken. And that helped me develop my character to who I am today. So I'm hoping when I grow up, I can also bring the community together just using my voice and through my lyrics, because I want to express myself to the lyrics that I write and sing. So I feel like going through this program helps me in developing my character a lot, so I'm hoping that the youth can get into it more, because I feel like the more the youth gets into it, the better the community will get. The youth is going to come up soon. So I feel like they should all go through this program.

Julia Meek: Can you believe that you're sitting here with one of your mentors, and one of your inspirations, Mr. Curry, to talk about this and the fact that your peers, your fellow students do look to you for leadership?

Desire Buckhanon: Going through this program, I have been accepted and exposed to a lot of opportunities, I would say. So I feel that this program is just preparing me for the future. So I'm glad that I went through this program because I also got to meet more people in the city. Because before that I really didn't know like the adults in the city. So I'm very glad that I got to experience and meet new people in the community.

Julia Meek: Choosing to be change makers and young leaders through the arts is a noble goal, as we just heard. Mr. Curry, where would you like to see your organization go next?

Adrian Curry: The idea is to develop a Percussion Theater, okay? And so thus far, our hands and our feet had been our percussion, but we're looking to attain drums so that we can actually drum in the Art Leadership Center Promenade, but that's a more of a short term goal. The long term goal, the bigger vision, is to develop a cultural arts campus that is the hub for arts and culture on the southeast side of Fort Wayne. And hopefully, we can connect with the other arts organizations to bring about that Renaissance.

Julia Meek: We look forward to that as well. And one thing that has happened is a name change or revision. It's a nice little tweak on an already nice name, but what does it signify then, along with that change?

Adrian Curry: The Art Center versus the Art Leadership Center, ladies and gentlemen! (laughs) The Art Center is our new nonprofit. And so this year, the Art Center presents the Macknificent Freedom Fest, the official Juneteenth Celebration in Fort Wayne. And so what this is going to allow us to do is receive the funding necessary to develop those Renaissance leaders as well as for the mission ultimately to build the global body that we speak of, as well as continue to facilitate and host an amazing festival such as the Macknificent Freedom Fest or Juneteenth Celebration. We also would like to incorporate Kwanzaa in there as well.

Julia Meek: It's certainly obvious, Mr. Curry, that your Art Center is a wonderful, thriving and growing bigger and better each day organization. You've got your heart and soul in it. I'm asking you from your hearts, now, the both of you, why will this benefit the entire community, making change come to Fort Wayne, and how can the entire community help you in that mission?

Desire Buckhanon: Well, to start off with Juneteenth, Mr. Curry has been telling us that the whole movement is to organize, educate and celebrate. And he also tells us that life is about knowledge itself. So the Art Center has also helped us and educated us about the knowledge of self. We go through stuff about like how everything is made out of atoms, and every show we say we break it down. So I feel like this program brings education and it brings character traits that some may need or need help improving on. So with Juneteenth, it's not just about how we are bringing the community together, it's also about bringing awareness to what the reality is, and also bringing about education that the youth and basically the community needs overall.

Adrian Curry: We are building a body, atom to atom we say, right? And so what does that really mean? Well, when we go from atom to atom and bear with me here, atoms make molecules, molecules, cells, cells, tissues, tissues, organs, organs, organ systems, organ systems, organisms, and we are organisms! We come together to create organizations. The first one we know is family. Families make tribes, tribes, nations, nations, empires, empires, the kingdom of heaven that is on Earth, Earth is a planet planets make solar system solar system, galaxies, galaxies, the universe, and the universe is said to sit inside of one atom. And why do I say this? Because if we're building a body in that way, that means on the level of nations or tribes or organizations or even families, everyone has a place, and that is what we're here to present. Everyone has a place. And the idea is to discover what is that place? What is your function? And how do they connect. And that's our overall mission. And so everyone is involved in this and you can help us by recognizing your function, right? And bringing it to the table. Our goal with the art Leadership Center, the Art Center, we want to develop a central nervous system and believe it or not, that ALC Promenade is a symbol of that. All people of all walks of life can connect to that central nervous system and so how can you help out? Well, volunteer with the macknificent Freedom Fest. Sponsor a Renaissance leader. Look into that. You can check us out at Macknificentfreedomfest.com or the artleadershipcenter.org And you can get more information on how that's possible. But these Renaissance leaders need your support and they are ultimately going to serve you.

Julia Meek: Adrian Curry is founder and director of the Art Leadership Center, also known as the Art Center, and Desire Buckhanon, Captain Ambassador of that organization. Adrian, Desire, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Blessings on your journey. Do have a macknificent celebration!

Adrian Curry: Thank you so much.

A Fort Wayne native, Julia is a radio host, graphic artist, and community volunteer, who has contributed to NIPR both on- and off-air for forty years. Besides being WBOI's arts & culture reporter, she currently co-produces and hosts Folktales and Meet the Music.