by Jazmine Otey and
E.J. Shaw contributor
The Annual Juneteenth Celebration, sponsored by the local Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) took place Saturday, June 9 in Washington Park. The event, held 12-noon-5:30 p.m., featured food vendors, praise dancers, various artists and much more.
“Juneteenth is like a celebration of freedom,” explained Bishop Edward Mitchell, local SCLC vice president. “A group of Black confederate slaves did not get word that the war was over until a month later. This led to a big celebration that was called Juneteenth.
According to one of the event organizers, SCLC’s Brenda Keeling, many individuals still aren’t familiar with Juneteenth. Bearing this in mind, she made it her goal to get their entertainment to contribute in different ways to symbolize the holiday in an annual effort to educate the crowd as well as the masses.
Anita Wilson spoke on the history of Juneteenth and the activities included praise dancers performing African and spiritual dances wearing Dashikis –clothing related to Black culture.
“Many people don’t understand what Juneteenth is,” Keeling said. “The observance is our Fourth of July– our Independence Day. When I was organizing the festival, I tried to involve as many young people as I could because they need to know about Juneteenth.”
The event also featured various music groups performing an array of tunes. Special guests included Ramon and Damon Williams, founders of Twin Hoops Basketball Camp. Others featured on program included performers from the Downtown Music Lab, Aishah Brown, Loudon Avenue Christian Church and many more.
Willie Brown, also known as “The Artist M-Pact” brought the event to a close with music promoting praising the Lord and encouraged everyone to better themselves as well as their commitment to the positive movements within their community.
“It’s positive music,” Brown said. “I spoke nothing but life into the people that were out there. You can pretty much connect that to the Juneteenth Festival as far as us being free and having the liberty to be the best that we can be.”
For the past ten years, SCLC has provided local residents with free meals but this year there were food trucks with a variety of different food choices! Vendors were also able to come and set up free of charge on the day of celebration. However, according to Keeling there was a smaller turn out this year than usual. Nevertheless, she claims that sometimes a small crowd is better and that this year’s event was successful regardless! Organizers were pleased with the outcome and look forward to hosting the function again next year–or in the future.
“It’s a good event,” Mitchell said. “It’s just coming together with all kinds and groups of people and having a Fellowship Day of Freedom!”