Skip to main content

Rider's Almanac Blog

Behind the Juneteenth bus art: Leeya Rose Jackson

Posted by John Komarek | Wednesday, June 15, 2022 6:57:00 PM

Leeya Rose Jackson is a local artist who moved here from Detroit, Mich., and now lives in North Minneapolis. She’s responsible for the Juneteenth art featured on the side of Metro Transit buses. We asked her about her art, its meaning, and her artistic direction.  

Why is Juneteenth important?  

Many people still don’t know what it is or what it’s about. Some people think slavery ended at the end of the Civil War. It took a lot of tenacity and perseverance from great people to make this holiday commemorating the official end of slavery possible. It’s also a reminder that it wasn’t that long ago and this history interconnects with today.  

Why did you create art for Metro Transit?   

I turned down other offers to create Juneteenth art. Most of the corporate appeals felt like pandering and I didn’t want to take part in that. I wanted my Juneteenth art to not only celebrate, but to help connect with and educate the community. So, when Metro Transit asked me, I said yes. Having art on the side of a bus puts it outside of an art gallery that some people might not feel comfortable going to or don’t ever go to. And I love the cross-section of people that ride and see transit in their communities – it’s everyone. On a bus, this art can be a part of someone’s day and help direct them to find out more.  

What was your artistic direction?  

I wanted the colors to capture the vibrancy of Black people and the welcoming and warm feeling of a community cookout, so I incorporated colors like soft lavenders, a shade of purple, which can also signify royalty. In a way, the Juneteenth champions are royalty, given their dedication and achievements. 

Who is depicted?  

I drew local and national heroes who dedicated decades to making Juneteenth a national holiday. In the process, I learned a lot myself. I knew of Opal Lee, but through this project learned more about her and her specific contributions. I hope that when people see these faces and names on the side of a bus, they’ll visit to learn more about these important figures in Juneteenth history. 

Celebrate Juneteenth with Metro Transit

Members of Metro Transit's Equity & Inclusion Team and BIPOC Employee Resource Group will staff a booth at the West Broadway Block Party, a celebration of Juneteenth, on Sunday, June 19. Prints of Jackson's art will be available at the event.