In the week leading up to Juneteenth, King Boston, a nonprofit program of the Boston Foundation, will host the first-ever Embrace Ideas Festival. The five-day event features presentations, art and educational experiences, performances, and panel discussions from prominent antiracism experts. The festival spans June 13-17, each day centered on a new theme.
“Boston is a storytelling city,” explained King Boston executive director Imari Paris Jeffries. “We have the opportunity to tell America’s story and imagine the new story, post-pandemic, where Boston tells a story of inclusion.” He said the Embrace Ideas Festival will be an annual event.
The festival begins with a conversation between Boston Foundation president Lee Pelton and “The Sum of Us” author Heather McGhee on confronting zero-sum thinking in racial equity, Paris Jeffries said. Day two will take place at Harvard Medical School with programming focused on healing from racial trauma. It begins with a keynote from Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers president and CEO Michael Curry and Boston Globe culture columnist and associate editor Jeneé Osterheldt. A panel discussion follows, featuring King Boston’s director of community engaged research April Inniss and Dr. Thea James, vice president of mission and associate chief medical officer for the Boston Medical Center, among others.
Day three, hosted by the Institute of Contemporary Art, highlights the power of culture. It will feature Paris Jeffries moderating a conversation between Whitney Museum of American Art assistant curator Rujeko Hockley and conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas on culture’s role in creating a racially inclusive city. In 2019, King Boston selected Thomas’s “The Embrace” as its public art memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Community leaders broke ground for the monument in Boston Common this April, and Paris Jeffries said the organization plans to unveil the 22-foot, bronze sculpture of the Kings in 2023.
“‘The Embrace’ memorial is actually two different memorials in one,” Paris Jeffries explained, adding that the piece’s foundation will also highlight 65 distinguished Bostonians who fought for civil rights from 1950 to 1975.
GBH’s One Guest Street studios hosts day four, where programming on the history of reparations will begin with a discussion between King Boston deputy director Tammy Tai and Kamm Howard, the co-chair of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations. The fifth and final day looks at Boston’s equity, past and present, guided by distinguished historians, including Wellesley College associate professor Kellie Carter Jackson and L’Merchie Frazier, the Museum of African American History’s director of education. Massachusetts College of Art and Design will serve as host.
Day five also features the first Embrace Awards, presented to former acting Boston mayor Kim Janey and Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston president Robert Lewis Jr. Both were selected for their service as “Boston icons,” Paris Jeffries said. Following the awards ceremony is a free Juneteenth block party in Nubian Square, complete with food trucks, sets from Boston DJs, and live music.
For the full schedule and tickets, starting at $25, visit embraceideasfestival.org.
Sam Trottenberg can be reached at [email protected]