Celebrating history

Community will come together for Juneteenth holiday

—Submitted photo
Zak Nuzum, Charles Clayton, Judge Brown and Sherry Washington stand in front of poster at a Juneteenth celebration at H.C. Meriwether Park.

Jonathan Roberts doesn’t want to just celebrate Juneteenth in a week’s time, he wants the holiday to be felt throughout the entire year.

Roberts, who worked for the Fort Dodge schools for about 10 years after retiring from the Marine Corps, enjoys the fact that the Black community will come together to commemorate the freeing of slaves.

“Juneteenth really means to bring out the culture of the Black community,” Roberts said. “It’s all about bringing the community together and putting the unity back in the community. It’s about working toward fellowship and networking.

“There is a lot of history behind Juneteenth and the sentiment should be taken throughout the entire year because there are a lot of people full of pride.”

The history of Juneteenth dates back to 1866 when it was originally celebrated in Texas. It marked the first anniversary of the day that Blacks there first learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, more than two years after it was initially issued.

—Submitted photo
Families gather at H.C. Meriwether Park during a Juneteenth celebration.

“It’s important to the African American community,” said Charles Clayton, founder and director of Athletics For Educational Success (AFES). “Once everyone got the news that the slaves were freed it took awhile to get around to the colonies. Texas was first to celebrate freedom.

“It was believed that the first day was June 18, but the exact day wasn’t known. It has been common practice to start on June 11 the week before the 18th and in some big cities can last a week.”

Clayton and the community will have an event this Saturday. It will run from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the AFES facility (712 Third St. N.W).

“For me growing up, when I was in high school, my step dad helped me gain a sense of pride,” Clayton said. “Black people have overcome so much and have made strides.

“It’s a day that marks the beginning of that and civil rights. Now we can achieve our greatness. We want to also teach other kids and people to take pride in that day.”

—Submitted photo
A sign sits at H.C. Meriwether Park during a Juneteenth celebration.

On Saturday’s Juneteenth event, families can enjoy food, music and dancing by area youth along with other entertainment.

Activities will include health screening, Black history, Juneteenth art, history education room, vendors, voting information as well as outdoor games for youth and adults.

“There will be music, food, inflatables for the kids and black business vendors,” Clayton said. “We will have yard games, basketball, outdoor kickball and soccer. A trio of local young girls will also be performing a dance routine.”

“The Fort Dodge Fire Department and Fort Dodge Police Department will also be there.”

Clayton said they will be also handing out an award to the family of MP Brown, one of Fort Dodge’s first black entrepreneurs.

Al Womble, political director at Iowa Federation of Labor, will be the guest speaker along with Fort Dodge native Stacey Silliman-Jones and many others.

Womble, who is the president of Iowa Democratic Black Caucus and Drake University graduate, will speak at 12:20 p.m.

Silliman-Jones, a 1986 Fort Dodge graduate who moved back to Fort Dodge about five years ago after living in Atlanta, will be another speaker. Silliman-Jones works for Iowa Workforce, but also runs her own nonprofit with kids and does in home counseling.

“My message is to educate my community on the history of Juneteenth,” Silliman-Jones said. “Juneteenth is because of our ancestors. This is to gather to celebrate that and talk about the history and celebrate with dance, songs and food.”


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