Dayton Juneteenth events bringing together community for celebration and education

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) -June 19, 2020 marks the 155th celebration of Juneteenth.

On June 19, 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas were given news that the civil war had ended and the Emancipation Proclamation formally freed them in 1863.

Today, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley created a proclamation making June 19, 2020 Juneteenth Day in Dayton. Across the Miami Valley, the community came together to observe the holiday in many ways.

“Everyone across the globe really should celebrate everyone’s freedom because racism is not just an American thing,” said Erin Smith-Glenn, Assistant Professor of Art at Central State University.

Smith-Glenn says although Ohio was designated as free state, it is still important for residents to recognize that African Americans still had to fight for freedoms.

“My mom was 10 years old marching in Columbus, being escorted to school by military tanks. It’s not just a celebration. In a way, it’s a sense of mourning. It’s sad that we have to celebrate this in a way,” said Smith-Glenn.

In Dayton, a city-wide “Harambee” was held to invite the community to learn more about the traditions and culture surrounding Juneteenth.

“We’re going to make sure that we do this every year on Juneteenth. It’s unfortunate that so many people don’t know their history in regards to Juneteenth, so we’re going to make sure we’re constantly bringing it to light,” said Cierra Williams, organizer of the event and a teacher at the Richard Allen School.

“Harambee is a Swahili word that means ‘pull together,'” she explained. “To take away from the hardwork of marching and protesting and the fear of being hurt. We wanted to have a good time.”

Dozens of children attended the Harambee and learned about the history of Juneteenth through songs, dances and stories.

“Kids are hungry for information, so to hear some of those stories on how [Juneteenth] transpired, they were shocked,” said Anthony Parker, founder of the Extraordinary Men Mentoring Group.

Event organizers say teaching the children about this part of American history can help them to better understand the history unfolding before them today.

“With the whole Black Lives Matter movement, we’ve been seeing a lot of pain. We’re constantly getting on the media and seeing police brutality. It’s painful to watch,” said Williams. “Juneteenth is a day of celebration. It’s the day that all of us were finally free…to a degree.”

“It made me mad and a little bit worried, but proud of how we survived this long,” shared Cameron, a mentee with the Extraordinary Men Mentoring Group.

“This just goes to show that the Dayton community…we’re strong, we’re resilient, no matter what’s going on in the world. So I’m super happy everyone came out,” said Williams.

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