YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On Saturday, Youngstown’s community members came together to celebrate Juneteenth.
Historically, it’s to remember the day that the last group of slaves were set free on June 19, 1865.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but it wasn’t until two years later that the final group of slaves in Galveston, Texas were told they were free.
“June 19 we celebrate what we call it, Juneteenth, but it’s really Freedom Day or Emancipation Day,” said Guy Burney, co-organizer of the event.
Many are saying this holiday needs to be taught within all of history, encourgaing everyone to research and understand African American History.
“To leave out African American or a celebration like Juneteenth would be like taking a chunk out of American History,” said Dr. M. Rosie Taylor of Calvary Baptist Church in Boardman.
But using the holiday is not only to celebrate the past but fight for a better future.
“We still have a long way to go. You look at, that was in the 1800’s and we’re in 2020 and we’re dealing with police officers still murdering Black men,” said Charles Colvin, organizer for the event.
Hundreds of people showed up for the event at the Youngstown Foundation Amphiteater.
They honored those who died due to actions done by different police departments, asking for justice and police changes in law enforcement across the country.
“We hope that we will have unity in our communities and live up to our pledge to be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” said Pastor Kenneth Simon of New Bethel Baptist Church in Youngstown.
Saturday’s event had many vendors and local businesses show up, getting help from the Youngstown State University men’s basketball teams who served food, bringing together unity.
“People are now sensing what we’ve known all along. People are feeling it now and understand that there needs to be justice, fairness and all people treated equal,” Simon said.
A few local community leaders were also honored at the Juneteenth celebration.
One of those was First News digital reporter Jennifer Rodriguez.
It was for her work with the city and the community to help everyone get through the COVID-19 Pandemic.
All were presented a Certificate of Recognition signed by Mayor Tito Brown.
The day was also honored with a legislation by Youngstown City Council, declaring racism a public health crisis.
And since we are still in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mahoning County Public Health Department stood at the entrance, taking temperatures and handing out masks while asking people to social distance and sanitize.