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caption: Visitors to Wa Na Wari in the Central District take in a sculpture and immersive installation by Pittsburgh-based artist Vanessa German.
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Visitors to Wa Na Wari in the Central District take in a sculpture and immersive installation by Pittsburgh-based artist Vanessa German.

Wa Na Wari celebrates Black joy with Juneteenth Photobooth

Monday, June 20 marks the first official observance of a brand new federal holiday, Juneteenth. Juneteenth honors the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, more than two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

While Juneteenth has been honored as an official “Day of Remembrance” in Washington state since 2007, the day became an official state and federal holiday last year.

Juneteenth is this Sunday, and there are a plethora of events happening around the Seattle area throughout the weekend.

One of those events is happening Friday afternoon: the Juneteenth Photobooth at Wa Na Wari, a space in the Central District supporting Black ownership and belonging through art, historic preservation, and connection.

Soundside host Libby Denkmann chatted with Wa Na Wari Event Planner & Facilities Manager Soulma Ayers-Hardiman about the photo booth and its importance to the community.

“The reason why we're looking at free portraits for Black people and Black families is we don't get enough moments capturing joy, and capturing happiness, or excitement,” Ayers-Hardiman said.

She said historically Black churches maintained a church directory that included photos.

“And they all would do portrait sessions; so, the families would get portraits," Ayers-Hardiman explained. "They were almost like getting your school portraits done. And I think that's really important to bring back to these communities that were looking at reclaiming spaces.”

The photographer for the event is Brea Wilson, who Ayers-Hardiman called "one of the most amazing creatives that I've worked with in a very long time."

"And I think because as we're going into this new transition, of understanding what the new Black family, and what Black art looks like, having someone that does portraits in the Black community is really important," she said. "And so Brea definitely represents that.”

Wa Na Wari also has a book and album release for Janae Johnson on Saturday afternoon, and the return of the Afrikan Marketplace on both Saturday and Sunday.

Wa Na Wari focuses on keeping Black families in their homes and preserving Black cultural space in the Central District and beyond.

“I think what's important about the work that we do is that we're showing people that it can be done," Ayers-Hardiman said. "We have kept this space very true to its original owners and builders. As we look at how our cities are being transformed, you're also taking away the character of neighborhoods as you take away the history. And so, we're showing that you can still hold on to that space and develop it in ways that just enhances the energy of the art that was created in this community.”

You can listen to our entire interview with Soulma Ayers-Hardiman above, and you can discover everything that Wa Na Wari offers at their website, wanawari.org.