Visitors thronged the grounds of Gary City Hall on Saturday for the city’s second annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival celebration.
A DJ and musical performers, a poet and dance performances by students from Asia’s Dance Factory in Gary were among the entertainment at the afternoon family event. Booths included food vendors, artisans and service agencies as well as an opportunity to register to vote hosted by the NAACP Gary Chapter. The party continues Sunday at 3 p.m. with the Gospel Explosion concert at the town hall
Deputy Mayor Trent McCain addressed the crowd along with U.S. Representative Frank Mrvan, D-Highland, and Stephen Mays, President of the Gary Chapter of the NAACP, and Reverend John Jackson Sr., of Trinity United Church of Christ to Gary.
Jackson shared some of the story behind the June 19 celebration in a rousing speech that called on those in attendance to remember that the fight for freedom continues.
“We practice self-determination. We may have made progress, but we’re still not free,” Jackson said.
The national toll caused by the murder of George Floyd shows that there is still work to be done. He called on those in attendance to support black-owned businesses like those at the festival and not let corporate greed use the opportunity to co-opt the day.
“June 19 has been celebrated for a very long time. It’s one of many rituals that black people in America do alone to celebrate,” Jackson said.
The Emancipation Proclamation signed in 1863 did not free the slaves, black people did so by fighting the war and organizing. Texas slaves did not know they were being freed until they were finally informed of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865.
“Juneteenth is an express celebration to remember not just to be free but to reconnect with our loved ones,” Jackson said.
The desire of former slaves to reunite with loved ones who were sold is behind the homecoming celebrations that continue today in schools across the country and the concept of family reunions that still takes place today. today.
Mays encouraged those in attendance to patronize black-owned businesses in the city and for those not already affiliated to join a civil rights organization. He called on those present to register to vote to help secure the future of freedom and to celebrate June 16 as a day of service.
“That’s what the spirit of Juneteenth is all about,” Mays said. “In 2022, we are still not completely free. It’s a special day that we should always remember and reflect on,” Mays said, adding that people should take the opportunity to reflect on the things that still need to be done.
Mrvan thanked everyone for coming, especially the children.
“We need to be able to teach our history,” Mrvan said.
“In our country, we want to celebrate our freedoms, not take them away,” he continued, adding that he was proud to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the US Bailout Act, who brought resources to the city. He said he would fight for young women to grow up to have the freedoms of their mothers.
“You have a lawyer in Washington DC,” Mrvan said.
Breta Jackson of Crown Point and Marsha Daniel of Michigan City were both born and raised in Gary. The friends stepped out on Saturday for the Juneteenth Freedom Festival in Gary.
Jackson said growing up she never heard of Juneteenth, but when she moved to Dallas, Texas, she learned the importance of the day because it was celebrated there.
“I’m really happy to see it spreading. Glad to see Gary, Indiana doing something to celebrate this historic date,” Jackson said.
She said it is good that people understand the importance of the day and celebrate it.
Daniel accepted. She said her daughter, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, advocated for Juneteenth recognition. For the African-American community, 1776 is not the day that brought freedom. That day came in 1865.
“The story of this one is important,” Daniel said. “Children these days don’t know their history, they don’t know their roots.”
Marking June 19 with events like the Gary Festival creates an opportunity to pass on the importance of history to future generations, she said.
Angela Hargro from Gary brought her hand-forged copper and silver jewelry to the event. She has been making jewelry through her company Designs by the Copper Freak for over 20 years. The 1986 Roosevelt graduate said events like the June 19 celebration in the city were needed.
“I think it’s great. I love my beautifully run-down town. There’s so much talent here,” Hargro said.
Festivals like Juneteenth create an opportunity to showcase the various talents hidden in the city.
“We have so much to give. There are artists of all calibers here,” she said, adding that she would like to see the event grow and improve every year. Hargro said she likes what Mayor Jerome Prince has done with the city and hopes more amenities like parks will be brought back so young people have a place to play.
“We all need each other,” she said,
The Anderson sisters – twins Nevaeh and Nivea, 16; Nya, 12, and Nia, 6, were selling t-shirts they had designed by their company DORK, Dedicated Overachieving Responsible Kids. The t-shirt business grew out of their father’s printing business Anointed Prints in Gary.
Nevaeh said she identifies as a “dork” and wants to reclaim the word with her sisters in a positive way. They’ve been making their t-shirts since 2015. Mom and Dad Damien and Latisha Anderson said they encourage entrepreneurship in their kids and girls’ friends.
Latisha Anderson said they let the girls do their thing and stand back and watch.
The Juneteenth event provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of the date.
“It celebrates us as a whole,” she said.
Carrie Napoleon is a freelance journalist for the Post-Tribune.