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Community celebrates the end of slavery

Group has been hosting gathering for a decade

WARREN — Although a week later, Niles resident Katrina Harris celebrated Juneteenth in Warren on Saturday.

Purchasing a tray to burn sage and incense from Kim Whitaker of Warren, Harris said that the week before, she and her family had observed Juneteenth — the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

Having a cookout, Harris said the family “celebrated and talked about black history,” as well as current events involving civil rights.

She said that although locally the civil climate is mild, her family is still keeping the rest of the nation in mind.

“We don’t have a lot of problems here, but we still try to be supportive of everything going on,” she said.

Originally the annual Juneteenth celebration was planned for Quinby Park, but due to the threat of thunderstorms, this year’s organizer Lea Dotson said that the event was moved indoors to the Trumbull Community Action Program at 1230 Palmyra Road SW.

Community Concerned Citizens, a local group, has held the event at the park for about a decade as a cookout, but this year COVID-19 left CCC concerned for the well-being of those who would attend.

IVoteBlack and the Trumbull County chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute decided to organize this year’s event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“We really didn’t want it to die so we stepped in proxy,” Dotson said. Next year, Juneteenth will be held again by CCC.

The IVoteBlack group is petitioning Warren council to find money for body cameras, wants numbers on traffic stops and race demographics, plus the release of the complete Department of Justice consent decree with city police, Dotson told 21-WFMJ TV.

For this year’s event, attendance was steady, Dotson said, with youth performers and The Michael Austin Project providing entertainment throughout the day.

“It’s odd, but there’s a renewed interest in Juneteenth. It probably has to do with the atmosphere of the whole nation right now. So many more people are talking about Juneteenth that previously didn’t know about it,” Dotson said.

The event featured more than 20 vendors, ranging from youth entrepreneurs to cultural jewelry to clothing.

Juneteenth dates back to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers led by Maj. General Gordon Grander landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free.

Also attending the celebration Saturday were friends Jermani Bryant and Mackinzie Kirk, both 19 and from Warren.

Bryant said she attended as a sign of unity with the black community.

“The bringing together of the black community — I think it’s so important for us to embrace and share this moment together,” Bryant said. “It’s so important for us to come together as a unit to show our talents, our abilities, just to be comfortable in our skin.”

In the last month of discussion and protests around the nation, Bryant said she’s learned that gratitude can go a long way.

“What I’ve learned is to show love or appreciation toward others, whether you know them or not. Just love each other. That’s all we have left in this world.”

afox@tribtoday.com

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