YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Youngstown’s Black Cultural Weekend starts Friday and runs through Sunday at various locations downtown. It is organized by the Greater Mahoning Valley 1619 Committee. In this In-Depth interview, WKBN’s Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford is joined by 1619 Committee co-chair Reverend Lewis Macklin to explain what to expect.

First, Rev. Macklin explained what the 1619 celebration is.

“The 1619 celebration was born out of the 400-year commemoration of Africans coming to the Americas. We came under protest and duress. However, in that time, that 400 years later, we have as a culture, as a community of people have expounded and made an imprint in this country that this country continues to experience and is blessed by. Our 1619 continues that effort, and we have these weekend activities sponsored, particularly to celebrate our cultural heritage, our resiliency, and to celebrate the goodness within our community,” said Rev. Macklin.

The invitation is for the community abroad, but it’s basically focusing on 400 years of African-Americans in this country and slavery and freedom and just celebrating life.

“Well, you know, we know how to put it all together and make it happen, and I do want to tell folks that is not is … we’re unapologetically dealing with and celebrating African and African-Americans without a doubt. But it’s an opportunity also for those who are not identifying as African or African-Americans to come and participate in the celebration, to experience just as we go to other cultural events and experiences, it broadens our experience. So I encourage everyone to put this on your calendar and come down to support and attend,” said Rev. Macklin.

It celebrates our commonality as well as our difference. The celebration is from Aug. 19-21.

“We’ll have various activities on Friday. We’ll have old school walk. Well, it’s going to be fun dancing. It’s going to be some music…There’s going to be some wonderful opportunities just to gather. But really, I think the pinnacle of the event can be found on Saturday when we’re going to be honoring veterans, African-American veterans, who have served in our community, those who continue to serve to make a difference and protect our rights and freedoms as Americans, and so this year, we’re excited to be able to put a focus of emphasis on our veterans, our male and our females who have served with great valor and sometimes, oftentimes went unrecognized and underappreciated for the things that they’ve done to make us safer,” said Rev. Macklin.

Rev. Macklin spoke about the honor of a female in the community who is a Purple Heart recipient.

“She’s a young lady. When I say young, I know, without fear of contradiction, that she’s under 40. But Shayla is an awesome young lady. She’s talented, and unfortunately, she was wounded in Afghanistan and she is a recipient of a Purple Heart for her valor service and she continues to serve our country so she’s still active and listed,” said Rev. Macklin.