On June 19, 2020, Maddox Haberdasher stood in protest and celebration at Devendorf Park in Carmel in solidarity with protesters against police brutality, but also in commemoration of Juneteenth. Widely celebrated in the South, June 19 – aka Jubilee Day aka Freedom Day aka Emancipation Day – is a holiday that celebrates Black liberation. It was that day that the last of the slaves in Texas were informed of their freedom.
Haberdasher’s protest transformed a year later into a three-man team, with Sean Carr and Ekene Nworah, and a schedule of events over five days. They’ve dubbed themselves the Juneteenth Coalition, which is in the process of incorporating as a nonprofit.
This year’s events include a classic car rally, a golf tournament at the Hay (a newly designed golf course by Tiger Woods), a creative black tie gala. But one event has drawn criticism from the organizers of local large-scale Black Lives Matter protests last year.
“Anguish of the Elders,” an event pitched as “fasting from sun-up to sundown and performing 246 minutes of fieldwork for 246 years of enslavement.”
Members of Monterey County Protest outlined their objections in a petition, with 120 signatures as of June 15, calling on the event to be canceled. “To disrespect those with familial ties to enslaved Africans by making their exploitation and years of trauma and dehumanization into an act is DISTURBING,” they wrote.
It’s not just the actions, but the setting and audience that drew condemnation. The petition questions people pretending to be enslaved providing free labor on a white-owned farm, Serendipity Farm, in Carmel. (Serendipity rents the land.)
The choice of locations for Coalition events is not accidental. “If you think back to 50 years ago, I would not have been able to play golf in Pebble Beach,” Haberdasher says.
Rosalyn Green is founder of the Monterey County Black Caucus, which is hosting a free Jubilee Day celebration in Seaside on June 19, and she mediated talks between the two groups. Green intends to attend the Coalition’s car rally, but had planned to attend the “performative fieldwork” event in protest, alongside members of Monterey County Protest.
“During several George Floyd demonstrations people were asked to hold their breath,” she says. “That was one of the most traumatic experiences I’ve had. In no way could I imagine being in a field for 246 minutes reliving my ancestors’ anguish. Juneteenth is a celebration.”
Faced with questions about whether the event exploited trauma, Serendipity Farms proprietor Jamie Collins canceled the event.
In a statement, the Coalition said, “The farm was bullied into canceling the event and it’s sad… .We are putting on six events that will hopefully bring the community together and not tear it apart.”