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Nasher project hopes to recognize Tenth Street District’s history at Juneteenth event

 The J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in downtown Dallas. Shot on Friday, January 15, 2016.
David Woo
The Dallas Morning News
The J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in downtown Dallas. Shot on Friday, January 15, 2016.

As part of the Nasher Public: Urban Historical Reclamation and Recognition project, the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library will host a public activity June 17 to make remembrance stones to honor Black residents who were buried in Oak Cliff Cemetery in unmarked graves.

Nasher fellow Vicki Meek, the lead artist who conceived of the project, will be gathering audio of visitor reflections with her team during the event as part of their ongoing work to commemorate communities of color.

“They get written out of the history books, basically. You really don’t even know that they existed due to the way we are gentrifying the community,” Meek said.

The Urban Historical Reclamation and Recognition team includes Dallas playwright Jonathon Norton, graphic designer artist and painter Brian Larney, filmmaker Christian Vazquez, social practice visual artist Ángel Faz and historian Dr. Marvin Dulaney.  

Tenth Street Historic District Freedman's Town is a significant neighborhood for Black heritage and rich in history. The Central Library will host a day full of events and activities to commemorate the Juneteenth holiday and recognize the legacy of the neighborhood.

Meek said the hope is the remembrance stones created will be installed at the cemetery to recognize the names of those buried there. The group is still working to see how best to use the public input they collect, but she said the intention is to find a creative way to recognize the people who helped shape the neighborhood.

The commemoration at the library includes other events and activities as well. The day will start with a conversation about the history of the district with Donald Payton on the 7th floor of the library, followed by a musical performance by Stanley Glenn to honor T-Bone Walker, a blues musician from the neighborhood who rose to fame. In the afternoon, there will be a performance of an original play by Iv Amenti titled "A Free Man Cries for the Future” in the first floor auditorium.

Details: The Juneteenth Celebration will be held on Saturday, June 17 the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. No registration is required to attend the event. 

Arts Access is an arts journalism collaboration powered by The Dallas Morning News and KERA.

This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.

Michelle Aslam is a 2021-2022 Kroc Fellow and recent graduate from North Texas. While in college, she won state-wide student journalism awards for her investigation into campus sexual assault proceedings and her reporting on racial justice demonstrations. Aslam previously interned for the North Texas NPR Member station KERA, and also had the opportunity to write for the Dallas Morning News and the Texas Observer.