West Broadway Block Party celebrates Juneteenth, pushes black economic development

MINNEAPOLIS – Sunday’s Juneteenth event in northern Minneapolis celebrated several first places.

To begin with, it was the first time that Juneteenth was being celebrated as a federal holiday – a successful push that many in Minneapolis attribute to racial justice efforts following the assassination of George Floyd.

Second, it was the first time it had been celebrated this way in northern Minneapolis. Several blocks of West Broadway, a key corridor on the north side, closed down for almost the entire day to celebrate the event.

“Broadway is our economic highway in northern Minneapolis,” said Michael Chaney, who co-founded Minnesota’s first Juneteenth party nearly 40 years ago. “It was a brilliant idea, an exciting idea, especially now that we’re starting to talk about economic development.”

Chaney says his hope is that the area will experience a renaissance – piggybacking on the success of black executives and business owners who are already calling the area home.

On Sunday, the road to that vision was clear as dozens of black business owners stood along the street.

“We can network. We can network together,” said Barb Powell, who launched his company, Soaptree Factory, during the pandemic.

“I look at where we came from the last two, yes, three years, I look at our situation today and we have come together again to enjoy life,” said Pastor Hubert Brown of the House of Refuge.

Brown’s Church sold chicken, fish, nachos and cheese fries at the event Sunday.

“It means a lot to see where we have come from as a people, and then we will come together as one in the future,” he said.

“I think this year is a kind of symbol of how Juneteenth has been respected and how its benefits have grown now that it’s a federal holiday,” Chaney said. “There’s a Juneteenth this year, I like to say funny on every corner, as good as it should be.”

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