YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – WKBN 27 First News Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford discusses the upcoming Juneteenth holiday and events planned for Youngstown.

Community activist Joseph Napier, chair of the Juneteenth week-long celebration, says Juneteenth has roots in the Valley that began at Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church.

“I’m still a member where Louis Macklin had several Juneteenth celebrations where it kind of sparked in me and influenced me to hold on to that history that we cherish in regards to other cities in Ohio and even Pittsburgh. We see the holiday growing rapidly, and we just definitely want to do our part as far as scaling the bringing joy to Juneteenth. Whether there is a Wean Park this year or the YWCA and countless other events that we have as a part of our week-long celebration,’ Napier said.

According to the White House, Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the day that Black slaves in Texas were freed. Slave owners had left New Orleans in 1862 and moved to Texas. On June 19, 1865 — over 2 years after President Lincoln declared all enslaved persons free — Major General Gordon Granger and Union Army troops marched to Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free the last enslaved Black Americans in Texas. 

This year marks the third in a row in Youngstown where events are planned all week long to celebrate the day.

One of those events is a community cleanup day on June 10.

“This will be our third year for the corridor cleanup in which we travel along Market Street between Midlothian and Indianola avenues and try to spruce up the neighborhood,” Napier said. “You know, instill a sense of ownership, create pride in our community and our neighborhoods but also teach the generations behind us that it’s important to cherish the places where we grew up, the places where we send each other to school and learn, and also just have a sense of community.”

Volunteers can report to the old BMV office on Market Street if they want to help. Bring gloves, a shovel, a smile and good energy. The cleanup runs from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Another event to celebrate Juneteenth is the Sankofa Ball which will be held at the Tyler History Center, 325 W. Federal St., Youngstown. That runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online.

Napier said the goal is to create different spaces for multiple generations to partake in Juneteenth.

“Really hone in on the significance of Juneteenth with our genealogy workshop at the main library. We try to put the tools and the assets available as far people who want to take the next step in filling out their family trees, getting DNA tests, looking through archives, through the courthouse and of that nature,” Napier said. “We want to put a plethora of different options in front of people through a workshop then we will have a discussion to close it out.”

Back Images in Art is another event that gives local artists an opportunity to show their work or reflect on past art and how it is impacting Juneteenth.

“It’ll be more of a presentation,” Napier said. “We will have different speakers in the conversation coming from experience. We will have artists giving their perspectives, but it will be more of a presentation. Look back at the timeline in which different imagery was utilized to depict African-American essence and community and how it shaped art.”

There are events focused on just youth, too. Harambee Youngstown offers something for everyone of all ages.

“Harambee Youngstown will be our feature performance. We are looking to also patronize Black-owned businesses for food trucks through baked goods and jewelry the whole night,” Napier said. Continuing onto Sunday, Jule 18, we will have our first soul food cook-off and car show.”

There will also be several band performances and Jazz on the Green.

“It would be a plethora of different events for both seasoned and young to come in, explore and have a good time,” Napier said.

A complete list of events for 2023 Juneteenth in Youngstown can be found at