WISCASSET — The Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Tribal Populations and the James Weldon Johnson Day Task Force plan to celebrate James Weldon Johnson Day over a three-day period from Friday through Sunday, June 17-19.

The commemoration will start June 17 in Wiscasset, where James Weldon Johnson died in 1938. On June 18, events will continue in Bath with a conversation among community historians about Recovering Maine’s Black History. The Permanent Commission will also participate in Westbrook’s Juneteenth celebration on June 19.

A full schedule of events for the weekend can be found at pcritp.me/JWJDay2022.

The weekend-long celebration will mark Maine’s first celebration of James Weldon Johnson Day and feature two panel discussions, poetry performances, music, and a documentary preview, according to a news release from the commission.

“A true renaissance man, Johnson was a novelist and poet, a songwriter, an educator, an attorney and a diplomat. He was also a leader in the NAACP during its early years and an outstanding voice in combating racism in our country. During his decade as executive secretary of the organization, he led the fight against racial discrimination, segregation, violence and lynching,” said Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, co-chair of the Permanent Commission.

Following the enactment of LD 1441, “An Act To Create a James Weldon Johnson Annual Observance Day and an Observance Task Force” in June 2021, the Permanent Commission formed a task force responsible for organizing Maine’s first annual James Weldon Johnson Day to honor the life and legacy of the Civil Rights leader, who is known for co-authoring “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” widely considered America’s Black National Anthem, among many other accomplishments.

“This celebration is a fitting way to commemorate the life and legacy of this truly extraordinary man,” said the Rev. Kenneth Lewis, senior pastor at Green Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Portland, who serves on the Permanent Commission as a representative of a religious institution. “I hope it will be the first of many celebrations of a day that represents a new opportunity for Maine people to learn about our shared history as we work together toward a brighter future for all our people.”

The Permanent Commission is an independent entity with a mission to work toward ending structural racism so all communities can thrive. The commission examines racial disparities as one tool to combat structural racism, which hurts everyone, including rural Mainers, Black and African American people, Indigenous people, other peoples of color, and all Maine residents struggling to thrive under these systems. To achieve its mission, the Permanent Commission is empowered to advise and consult all three branches of Maine government, and to introduce legislation.

For more information, email [email protected].