Juneteenth celebrations across Dayton region emphasize community

Levitt Pavilion concert features Grammy Award winners Rebirth Brass Band.



Juneteenth, a federal holiday marking the emancipation of African Americans from slavery on June 19, 1865, will be celebrated across the Dayton region with various events drawing communities together for commemoration, education, entertainment and reflection.

Levitt Pavilion, located at 134 S. Main Street in downtown Dayton, is at the forefront of the festivities with its third annual Juneteenth event slated Saturday, June 17. A community-curated opening ceremonies will begin at 5 p.m. followed by a free concert at 7 p.m. from Rebirth Brass Band offering its Grammy-winning blend of jazz, funk, soul and R&B.

“We are so excited to be celebrating our third Juneteenth celebration at Levitt Dayton, thanks to the thoughtful curation and partnership with Sierra Leone and her team at Oral Funk Poetry,” said Lisa Wagner, executive director of Levitt Pavilion Dayton. “We are looking forward to a beautiful celebration of community surrounding the Juneteenth commemoration followed by Grammy Award-winning Rebirth Brass Band bringing their New Orleans brass band tradition to Levitt Dayton.”



As Leone pondered programming for the opening ceremonies, authenticity was top of mind built around the theme “Taste of Freedom.”

“This year it’s all about honoring freedom in an authentic way,” she explained. “In the tasting of freedom, we know it extends into how we are choosing to interact with culture. What are the choices we are making and how are we educating ourselves on our surrounding city, on those who have left legacy here for us, and those who are wanting to add to what has already been in place. There are people who are doing this work all the time all year – not just on Juneteenth.”

In addition to an acknowledgment of ancestral land with a tribute to drumming and a spiritual libation, the program will feature the Omega Voices of Praise of Omega Baptist Church performing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and St. Louis-based dance troupe Jahfi Studio performing African dance. Making community connections and being intentional about what Juneteenth represents are also critical components.

“The (program) will be filled with us tasting different forms of freedom through performance and connecting to community through conversation,” said Leone. “This program speaks directly to where we are headed in the future into that liberation. And having a group like Rebirth Brass Band on the program is so exciting. People won’t be able to sit down! When you’re tasting freedom, you’re not standing still. You’re moving about the community and finding ways to connect with people.”

For more information, visit www.levittdayton.org.

Rebirth Brass Band: Four decades of New Orleans funk

This year marks 40 years since Rebirth Brass Band formed in New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood. The Grammy-winning group has weathered membership turnover over the years, but it hasn’t dampened its infectious sonic fusion of jazz, funk and hip-hop.



Keith Frazier, the lone remaining original member, helped found Rebirth in 1983 with his brother Philip and high school classmate Kermit Ruffins. The group soon signed with Arhoolie Records, which released the debut album, “Here to Stay!” (1984). Rebirth has gone on to release a string of notable albums for Rounder, Basin Street and other labels, including “Feel Like Funkin’ It Up” (1989), “We Come to Party” (1997) and “Rebirth of New Orleans.” The group’s most recent album is “Move Your Body” (2014).

Frazier (bass drum, cymbal) recently answered some questions about Rebirth Brass Band in advance of the group’s appearance.

Q: Congratulations on Rebirth’s 40th anniversary. How does it feel?

A: I’ve been here since day one and it’s hard to believe because the time went by so fast. The average life of a band is like five to eight years and that’s all they can maintain, but the guys love the music. When I perform, it always feels like the first time I actually started playing. It’s fun and I enjoy doing it. We’ve made a lot of progress in terms of how we record and what we’re recording. It’s all about having fun, putting energy into the music and making sure the audience enjoys us because if they’re enjoying it, we actually enjoy it that much more.

Listen to “Carnival Time” by Rebirth Brass Band:

Q: What’s this summer look like for the band?

A: We’ve been doing a weekly (gig) at a new place in New Orleans called the Rabbit Hole for about four months now. We’ve tried different things at some different venues. It worked out at the Rabbit Hole because it feels really comfortable. We’re traveling around a little bit more now that COVID isn’t that bad. We’ve been able to get out and perform in different states. We’re a lot busier and more people are starting to come out to the venues. June and July are really busy. We’ve had some festivals in between club dates and outdoor concerts. We go out a little bit more in the summer months. We’re bringing that New Orleans flavor with us. We’ll be playing a little bit of everything. We’ll try our hand at some new stuff, some old stuff and some stuff in between.

Q: Have you noticed a difference in crowd responses post-COVID?

A: The shows have been exciting. People really missed live shows during COVID. Most of the shows we’re doing now are sold out because people want to get out and experience live music, dance and enjoy themselves. You can’t replicate that live energy through streaming. When you actually have people screaming, dancing and enjoying the music, it’s an uplift for the band. It adds energy to what you’re doing, and it feels great to be out doing that again. You just can’t replicate that human-to-human connection. You can’t beat it. We’re looking forward to coming to Dayton. We’ll be more than happy to liven things up and get people up and dancing and having a great time. We really encourage people to get out and see live music.



Q: It has been a while since the last Rebirth album. What’s happening on that front?

A: We have a new album that’s going to be coming out, probably in January or February, but we’re taking our time with it. Most of the songs are done. We’re playing a lot of the new stuff on all of our tour dates so everywhere we go people can hear a couple of new tunes. It’s a different kind of world in terms of buying music. People aren’t really buying CDs or albums anymore. It’s all about downloads and streaming now. We can record a song and put it on social media in seconds. You don’t have to be stuck in a studio for weeks trying to record an album. We’ll drop a couple of singles before the album is released. The plan is to put those out so people can hear them, and the songs can marinate in their minds.

For more information about Rebirth Brass Band, visit www.rebirthbrassband.com.

Additional Juneteenth celebrations across the region:


Thursday, June 15

The African-American Community Fund (AACF) will hold its 2023 Breakfast Meeting and Fundraiser from 8 to 9:30 a.m., in the Great Hall (Building 12) at Sinclair Community College, 444 W. Third St. The event will consist of breakfast and a short program, with presentations on the fund’s 2022 highlights by AACF President Debbie Carter and testimonials from AACF’s 2022 scholarship and grant recipients.

The breakfast is free to attend but registration is required. To reserve a seat or be added to the sponsor list, please email aacf@daytonfoundation.org. Registration for the breakfast starts at 7:30 a.m., and the meeting will begin at 8 a.m. All proceeds from contributions will assist the African-American Community Fund in providing scholarships to local African-American students and grants to nonprofit organizations.

For questions or more information, contact AACF breakfast coordinator Eric Walker at 937-212-6568.

Friday, June 16

A Juneteenth Celebration will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Sinclair Conference Center, 444 W. Third St. Entitled “Freedom Rings and Change Sings!,” the celebration sponsored by Sinclair’s Diversity Office. Theatre director, actor and Sinclair Theatre graduate Shaun Diggs and Sinclair’s Mini-University Daycare Center will be featured. Free lunch. Event is open to the public. Registration required. To register, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/juneteenth-celebration-tickets-640490904537. Free parking will be available in the garage (Lot C) under Building 12 Conference Center.

Saturday, June 17

A Juneteenth Celebration will take place at Liberation Park at North Broadway Street and Superior Avenue in Dayton from 9 a.m. to dusk. Attendees will be able to enjoy performances from local musicians and artists throughout the day. In addition to the music and a diverse array of food, vendors will sell a variety of goods such as clothing, jewelry and other merchandise. Free admission.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/5957638517658709.




Sunday, June 18

The second annual Juneteenth Music Festival will be held from 5-10 p.m. at the Eichelberger Amphitheater, Huber Heights. Parking and admission into the festival is free. Sponsored by The City of Huber Heights, Culture and Diversity Citizen Action Commission (HHCDCAC).

Musical acts include some of Dayton’s more well-known artists: Chay Buddah & Hot2Def, Ric Sexton & Friends, and headlining the festival, the Dayton Funk All-Stars. Several Black-owned food trucks will serve a variety of soul food cuisine, and Black-owned business vendors will also be on hand. The festival will include a beer and wine garden sponsored by the Huber Heights Optimist Club and Huber Heights Performing Arts. The beer and wine garden and several of the food and merchandise vendors will have a cash-only option for payment.

Community members are invited to bring lawn chairs or blankets. The Eichelberger Amphitheater is located at 8625 Brandt Pike.

For more information, contact Sarah Williams, Community Engagement Specialist, City of Huber Heights, at 937-237-5820.


Monday, June 19

Juneteenth in Kettering will be held from 4-7 p.m. at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd. The free, family-friendly event will feature live music from Luv Locz Experiment, food trucks, local vendors, crafts for children and a keynote address by historian and TEDx Talk presenter Faheem Curtis-Khidr.

For more information, call 937-296-3302 or visit www.fraze.com.


Saturday, June 17

Springboro’s third annual commemoration of Juneteenth will include self-guided stops on the Underground Railroad from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Springboro Area Museum, 110 S. Main St., and historic downtown Springboro. There will also be a Juneteenth party and live music event featuring performances, local vendors, food trucks, giveaways and more from 12-9 p.m. at North Park Amphitheater, 195 Tamarack Trail.

For more information, visit springborojuneteenth.com.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam


Friday, June 16

There will be a Juneteenth Opening Celebration held at 6:30 p.m. at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, 301 W. Main St. Beginning on Friday, the Hayner will display a children’s art exhibit that explores the theme “Celebrating Freedom.” Twenty-five local elementary and secondary students have submitted their interpretations of the theme. The Paisha Thomas Quintet will perform in the Courtyard at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 17

A Juneteenth Walk will begin at 3 p.m. at Hobart (ITW) Food Equipment Group, 701 S. Ridge Ave. The walk will be led by the T.R.S.S. Drum Corps and will proceed to McKaig and Race Park where the Juneteenth festivities will be underway. Activities will include a cookout, games and music. All Juneteenth activities are free. The Juneteenth events are the work of the Juneteenth Committee, I.D.E.A Troy and the Troy Human Relations Council.

Learn more at http://www.TroyHayner.org/happenings or facebook.com/juneteenthtroy.


Saturday, June 17

A reflective Black history-inspired walk will begin at 11 a.m. at Yellow Springs High School, 420 E. Enon Rd., and end on the grounds of Mills Lawn Elementary School, 200 S. Walnut St., where the Juneteenth program will be held from noon-1:30 p.m. The program will include music by the World House Choir and a storytelling performance by Tronee Threat. Games and other children’s activities will be offered throughout the afternoon. Food trucks will be available.

Contact Contributing Writer Don Thrasher at 937-287-6139 or donthrasher100@gmail.com.

Editorial Assistant Vickie Harris contributed to this report.