YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – There was a freedom walk at the Covelli Centre Friday in celebration of Juneteenth — a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
The name “Juneteenth” blends the words “June” and “nineteenth.” All but three states have designated it as an official state holiday.
The movement calling Juneteenth to become a holiday has grown in popularity after protests and riots over police brutality.
But a lot of people never learned about it in school. The Youngstown chapter of the NAACP said that has to change.
“What we would like to see is Youngstown City Schools do a better job, all schools, of making sure that all children know the true history of the United States — the good, the bad and the ugly — because only if you know all of that can you improve going forward,” Jimma McWilson said.
McWilson hopes this new attention to an important moment in the nation’s past will continue and translate to a greater awareness of Juneteenth, and of Black history in general, in the classroom.
The African American Male Wellness Walk happens every August in Youngstown, but it was canceled this year due to COVID-19.
The Academy of Urban Scholars wanted to find another way to celebrate Black freedom and Friday was the perfect day to do it.
“We’re looking to bring the community together, and walk in solidarity and push for racial equality here in America. Not just in the City of Youngstown, but in the entire nation,” said Bryant Youngblood, assistant director of the Academy of Urban Scholars.
Youngblood said it was motivating to see the crowd that came out because this event was a great way for people to educate themselves.
“Forcing people to really hear our voices and hear what we are saying to people. Just waking up the communities, letting them know, and getting them aware and making them understand that it’s really our time to step up and make a change.”
One of the walkers, Meri Johnston, said this was a way for her to support the community and movement.
“It’s not time to be silent about this. We need to be active and we need to show our support for those we care about and love them.”
Lekeila Houser said the event brought people together.
“This is a great way to get active in the community and it also is a great way to show the support, everything that is going on in the world right now.”
During the walk, safety protocols were in full effect. Temperatures were taken at stations and masks and hand sanitizer were provided.
Youngblood said the goal was to educate, while still keeping everyone safe.