Written By Kelsey Marie
Photo courtesy of The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire
From a cooking demonstration to virtual community dialogue, this year’s theme — Food for the Body, Food for the Soul is exploring the connection between food, culture, and our soul. We had the opportunity to talk to JerriAnne Boggis, Executive Director of Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire about what we can expect from this year’s Juneteenth Celebration and how we can continue to support the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire from now until forever.
Travel Noire: Can you tell us a bit about how the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire started? JerriAnne: The Black Heritage Trail of NH (BHTNH) is an expanded, statewide effort of an older, regional organization, the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail. BHTNH was formally established as a nonprofit in New Hampshire in 2016 and over two decades of success as the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail. The organisation’s mission, all along, has been to raise awareness and appreciation of African American history and life in order to build more inclusive communities today. There are histories of African Americans hidden throughout the state, and it was time to recognise the full contributions, resilience, and courage of all those who called New Hampshire home.
Travel Noire: How many years has the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire hosted it’s annual Juneteenth Celebration? JerriAnne: The Juneteenth Celebration has been a foundational program of BHTNH since our inception in 2017. We truly do use the event as a time to celebrate and honor the full strength and versatility of the African American and Black communities. There has always been a programming component — one steeped in history that is still relevant today, a musical performance, and finally, we wrap up the celebration with a beautiful soul concert that brings us together in spirit and community.
Travel Noire: This year’s theme is Food for the Body, Food for the Soul — can you tell us a little about what inspired this theme and the exploration of the connection between food, culture, and our soul? JerriAnne: Our theme was inspired by the ingenuity and creativeness of African American culture. Soul food was born out of struggle and survival. Themes that speak just as strongly today as it did back then. Food is one of the ultimate connectors back to our roots, our origins, and how our histories have shaped us to be who and where we are today. Unfortunately, in New Hampshire, Black people have had this identity removed in the name of assimilation. It’s incredibly difficult to find traditional Black cuisine in this state, and we wanted to find a way to name why we need to consider how to think differently around what restaurants exist, what does the makeup of our menus look like, and how does that send a message about who belongs. Additionally, there is a new anthropological research from the University of New Hampshire which provides us a more in-depth look at the diets and eating habits of some of our earliest African American settlers in the state and we are looking forward to highlighting this work as well.
Travel Noire: What can attendees expect from tuning in to this virtual Juneteenth celebration? JerriAnne: First and foremost, we want to celebrate the true beginning of a path to freedom for ALL in the United States. Secondly, we want to offer participants a chance to learn more about the history, so that [moving forward] we honor resilience, come together, and build a more inclusive future for all.
Finally, since this is being done virtually, we hope participants can still feel the energy of this day, despite the digital format. To do so, we would absolutely encourage everyone to watch alongside their families and encourage their friends to attend so that there are people they can talk to about the events and programs after the sessions conclude.
Travel Noire: How can we support the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire? JerriAnne: We have several ways to support our work. Our most popular way of giving is through individual giving which can be done online or by mailing your contribution to us at: The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire 222 Court Street Portsmouth, NH 03802. We are also seeking sponsorships for our programs throughout the year and grants are critical for our program growth and expansion. But, more than anything, the support comes from participating in our programs, sharing our information, signing up for our newsletter, and working alongside us to lift up the voices and stories that have been silenced for far too long.
Travel Noire: What part of this year’s Juneteenth Celebration are you most looking forward to? JerriAnne: Because of COVID-19, we had to take this event online, so I know it will be a different experience. But, in these times especially, I’m most looking forward to what I always do with this day — celebrating our past in community with everyone who supports our work. In this time of social distancing and strife, I am also looking forward to celebrating our culture. So often we get bogged down in despair and forget to remember and honor the incredible journey our ancestors took towards building what is unique to American culture, our food, and our music. The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire’s virtual Juneteenth celebration will take place on June 18th, 19th, and 20th via Zoom and Facebook Live.