This story was updated on 6.11.24

Jersey City poet, educator and community helper Millicent Ansah, popularly known as Mocha Mic with Millie, is hosting “Juneteenth Renaissance: A Celebration of Art and Poetry Under the Stars.”

The event is described by Millie as “an evening dedicated to celebrating freedom, resilience and cultural heritage through the power of art and spoken word,” featuring the creations of Black poets.

The event will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. in the rear courtyard of The Common Earth Company, 99 Monticello Ave., in Jersey City’s Lafayette section.

A dispenser of health and wellness lifestyle products and sponsor of weekly yoga sessions, it’s owned by the Rose family who also own the next-door business, Independent Beauty Supply, which is one of the oldest Black-owned businesses in the city.

Joining in the festivities will be acclaimed poets, musicians and dancers including: Taneeka L. Wilder, MowZus Baugh, Meliq August, Craig Bradley and Emme` de la Sol.

There will also be an opportunity for about a dozen non-featured performers to be represented in an open-mic session. There is a charge to participate. For the second year in a row, Mocha Mic with Millie will partner with the Pan-African organization, Build More Unity, by donating half its open mic proceeds to the group.

Also forming an integrative part of the evening’s program will be interactive art installations expressing the African-American’s rich cultural heritage through art installations that will be placed inside The Common Earth earlier this month and will remain for public viewing through June 28.

And, there will be guest speakers from the community such as Ward B Councilmember Mira Prinz-Arey and Christopher Jefferson of the organization Mysterious Ways, both of whom have supported previous community undertakings.

Millie, a first-generation Ghanian-American, lived in Brooklyn before moving to Jersey City’s West Side a decade ago.

“I have a 5-year-old entering the first grade and I have been an early childhood educator for 13 years,” Millie said. “I strive to stay active with community groups and organizations through partnerships and community programming.”

Through such local involvement, she’s met and developed strong ties with folks like Elvin Dominici Encarnacion, a political activist and author; Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea; and Jersey City poet laureate Ann Wallace.

For the past 3 ½ years, Millie and Encarnacion have partnered working with a nonprofit on food insecurity issues in Jersey City and Encarnacion has pitched in with school-related projects like holiday toy and bookbag distributions and pumpkin patch activities for kids in Lafayette.

“Millie’s absolutely a plus for everyone in Jersey City,” he said.

She teamed with O’Dea, Jersey City Public Library staff, along with sound therapy practitioner Sonya Spann and educator Imani Starr in using a Lincoln Park setting to help set up a meditative learning process as a self-calming technique for School 24 eighth-graders.

Millie recalls meeting Wallace at a Greenville Arts Crossroads reading asked Wallace to sign a copy of the noted poet’s new book. Wallace later returned the favor, reading from her works at an open mic hosted by Millie.

Millie says she’s “poured her heart into creating Mocha with Millie.” And she hopes that drive and “unwavering belief in the power of kindness and community” will “empower others” to widen the mission.

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...