Juneteenth is a national holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States in 1865. In Tulsa, the significant date has long been celebrated with a multi-day festival led by the Black community.
According to Tulsa Juneteenth, our local festival remains the largest Juneteenth celebration in the nation with 50,000 gathering in the heart of Historic Black Wall Street over three days.
We recently chatted with Lauren Corbitt, Executive Director of Tulsa Juneteenth, who is leading the organization and festival since the sudden death of her mother, Sherry Gamble Smith, shortly after Tulsa Juneteenth 2022.
DTP: You’ve been involved with Tulsa Juneteenth for some time. What is your earliest Juneteenth memory, in Tulsa or otherwise?
LC: My earliest memory of Juneteenth is as a young girl hanging with friends on Greenwood Avenue enjoying a communal space of Black culture.
As Executive Director of Tulsa Juneteenth, you continue your mother’s legacy. What is this new role like for you?
The new role has been overwhelming, but it aligns very well with my experience and I enjoy it. Continuing my mother's legacy brings joy to me in ways that have helped me heal through my grief.
Is there anything new we can expect at Tulsa Juneteenth 2023, and/or is there anything you are particularly excited about?
I am very excited about our Black Wall Street Pitch Competition. It's a newly added component of our Tech & Entrepreneurship track, happening on Thursday, June 15, at the Greenwood Cultural Center.
We applaud the work of Lauren Corbitt and others to continue the legacy of Sherry Gamble Smith, who was a friend of Downtown Tulsa Partnership. Sherry's commitment to Black excellence was evident not only in her involvement with Tulsa Juneteenth, but also in her leadership of the Black Wall Street Chamber, now led by her daughter Lindsey Corbitt, as well as the other ways Sherry invested in her family and community.