June 19 has special significance for Portia Powell. Not only is it Juneteenth, the annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, but it’s also the one-year anniversary of her thriving east side Detroit bar, Good Vibes Lounge.
She’s celebrating with spins from a DJ in the new patio on the back, which will provide additional outdoor seating to expand the dining area of her 1,830-square-foot lounge in East English Village.
“We didn’t know if we would make it to see this,” Powell says. “This one-year anniversary is for our loyal customers, our neighborhood community, and everyone who has supported and made Good Vibes thrive.”
Powell had originally planned to open the bar on March 25, 2020, but her plans were thwarted by the state-mandated COVID-19 shutdown. By June 19, she was free to open, but she almost lost everything after additional state orders shut her doors later in the year, and many of her investors flinched. As a new business owner, Powell didn’t qualify for much of the pandemic relief grants and loans offered to other small businesses, so she leaned in to takeout entrees and cocktails to-go.
The bar, which gained popularity through word of mouth, has attracted a clientele diverse in age, ethnicity, and class. Good Vibes credits the to-go cocktails, as well as its more recent ticketed brunches featuring trap and R&B music, and popular dishes like its lobster burger and the seafood combo for the bar’s survival and success. So this season, she’ll lean into joy.
“Juneteenth, a day of recognition, restoration, and celebration seemed to be the perfect day to open and celebrate the hard work that went into creating Good Vibes Lounge,” says Powell. ”The day that is so significant in the African-American community and represents freedom had a twofold meaning for Good Vibes for restoration in our community and freedom from being quarantined for months.”
Black Americans have long held joyous parades, backyard barbecues, fish fries, and church picnics with strawberry pop to mark Juneteenth, a contraction of “June 19th.” It commemorates the day in 1865 when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to proclaim the end of slavery in the state. It was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Widely considered to be African Americans’ independence day, Juneteenth has been celebrated since the 1800s but its popularity has waxed and waned. In recent years, and particularly following the police killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, there’s renewed and widened interest in celebrating what’s sometimes called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.
That weekend, many Detroiters will enjoy barbecue, red velvet cake, and ruby drinks that originated in West Africa in their backyards, but several cities will mark the day with public celebrations. The city of Madison Heights will hold its first celebration with a rib-cooking competition, food trucks, live music, and vaccines. Gerrard Allen and Shaun Dirden are hoping 1,250 people show for their third annual Juneteenth Family Reunion in Southfield’s Catalpa Oaks County Park. And amid the dancing at Good Vibes Lounge, there will be cornhole and spades games, gifts for customers, and a photo booth to mark the occasion.
Good Vibes Lounge, 6801 Harper Ave., will hold a community celebration from 3 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, June 19.
Other Metro Detroit Juneteenth celebrations
Taste the Diaspora Detroit, a collaboration of Black-owned restaurants, purveyors, and farmers, will host a viewing party of the new Netflix docuseries “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America” at Marygrove Conservancy. A limited number of shoebox meals from Detroit Black businesses will be available for purchase. Doors open at 6 p.m., with a watch party to begin at 7 and a moderated discussion to follow. June 19. Get tickets here.
Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund is kicking off its annual fundraising campaign on Juneteenth at the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm. The day will feature food prepared by chef Elle Simone Scott and Chef Q. Ibraheem and Fried Chicken and Caviar. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 19. For more information, visit https://www.evite.com/event/3f8dde2a1557415b9a7db09ff3e9fd8a/preview?close=1
Flood’s Bar & Grille in Detroit’s Greektown is holding an indoor-outdoor networking event for metro Detroit Black business owners on Friday, June 18. On Saturday, there’s a block-party celebration with DJs and a $1,000 cash giveaway for a business.
Culture in a Bowl pop-up: Spice things up collard greens, jollof rice, vegan cornbread, and sweet plantains from this West African pop-up. 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 18-20.
Movie Night in the D Juneteenth Jubilee: Watch the film “Concrete Cowboys,” starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit. 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. June 18.
Juneteenth Family Reunion: Bring your own food, or money for food trucks. There will also Black vendors, live music, entertainment, and free giveaways. Catalpa Oaks County Park in Southfield. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 19.
Juneteenth Jubilee Stroll on the Historic Avenue of Fashion: More than 40 Black-owned businesses in the northwest Detroit district, including restaurants, will provide discounts, giveaways, or entertainment. The celebration kicks off at 11 a.m. with a street dedication to Marvin Gaye and then moves to Livernois Avenue for more festivities. 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. June 19. Tickets are available in advance.
Detroit Black Wall Street Juneteenth Celebration: Shop with local vendors and food vendors, and more. DLoft Lounge, 21380 Coolidge Highway, Oak Park. 1:45 p.m. to 6 p.m. June 19.
Juneteenth Celebration—Give Back Edition: The event is centered on helping with community resources to move the community forward. Organizers will give away food boxes, baby formula, diapers, hygiene gifts, and more. Resources will include credit repair, mental health, and life insurance. 16065 Hamilton, Highland Park. Contact Hello@TheKristyLove.com or Tmhnonprofit@gmail.com. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 19.
Juneteenth In Detroit Family Day: This 11th annual event will have food, music, games, Father’s Day tug of war, and Mr./Ms. Juneteenth. Maheras Gentry Park, 12550 Avondale, Detroit. 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 19.
Unity in the Community: a Juneteenth Celebration: A celebration of cultural diversity that will feature performers and entertainers, and food trucks. Municipal Park, behind Lathrup Village City Hall, 27400 Southfield, Lathrup Village. 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 19.