By Mike Kinney
On Friday, mural artists placed the final touches on the new, highly anticipated artwork displayed on the South 37th Street underpass that honors both Juneteenth and the community advocate who has been integral in organizing an annual parade and festival to celebrate the holiday in Richmond.
The “Juneteenth Freedom Underpass” mural was painted on the southside of the underpass located between Chanslor and Ohio avenues. The parade that kicks off the annual Juneteenth event in Richmond passes through the underpass en route to the festival in Nicholl Park each June.
In addition to the mural, the project includes a section of artwork honoring Jerrold Hatchett, a longtime community advocate, organizer and retired Sims Metal manager who is credited with making the annual celebration possible long before Juneteenth became a federal holiday last year.
The Pullman Neighborhood Council, which organized to get the mural project approved by the Recreation and Parks Commission and City Council, worked with Bay Area muralist Desi Mundo of the Community Rejuvenation Project, who led residents in the design and painting of the mural.
Naomi Williams, president of the Pullman Neighborhood Council, said the mural marked an historic moment for Richmond’s Southside.
“I feel proud as a neighbor,” Williams said. “This acknowledges the importance of Juneteenth to our community.”
Williams will be the Juneteenth Parade and Festival’s 2022 Grand Marshall.
Hatchett, known as the “Godfather of Richmond” for his 50 years of community service, was present Friday to see the finalizing of the mural project. Retiring a few years ago, Hatchett is known for assisting charitable local nonprofits and connecting formerly incarcerated individuals to jobs while employed at Sims Metal. An accomplished Golden Glove boxer who sparred with Muhammad Ali in Louisville, Ky., in 1968, has been active in organizing the annual Juneteenth Parade and Family Day alongside the Juneteenth Committee. He often took on a lot of the work to hold the festival and a lot of the financing when funds were short.
Hatchett expressed deep gratitude that his service is recognized as part of the mural project.
“This is wonderful,” he said, “This is the biggest acknowledgement that I received in all of my years doing community service. After what slavery did to our people, the abuse, suffering and trauma, we needed to have Juneteenth celebration’s here in Richmond and throughout the nation.”
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger and his Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, TX and announced the Civil War had ended and that slaves were free. The historic Texas event occurred more than two years following the Emancipation Proclamation (Jan. 1, 1863).
While the Juneteenth celebration was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, after President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, Richmond has been holding its annual Juneteenth Family Day Parade and Festival for more than two decades. The event “showcases community, music, art and culture by descendants of the Great Black migration from the rural south that happened in the 20th century,” community members say.