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'Juneteenth' event in Garfield Park celebrates freedom for all Americans

The holiday observed every June 19 commemorates the day when the last remaining enslaved Black Americans gained their freedom
Posted at 9:20 PM, Jun 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-20 23:08:26-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A 'Juneteenth' celebration in Garfield Park Saturday commemorates the day when the last remaining enslaved Americans gained their freedom.

Saturday's event was organized by 19-year-old Ne'Asia Wilson.

"We're celebrating our last bit of people being able to be free and be part of a nation,” Wilson told FOX 17.

It's an idea that she and several friends had been discussing for some time. With everything that has happened in the wake of George Floyd being killed, she decided now was the time to act.

“From seeing the violence and stuff going on, it was just so much to take in. We just wanted to create a safe environment for people, have something positive to say about black life,” Wilson said.

The event brought together nearly 100 people to enjoy all sorts of food, run sack races, make crafts, learn about black culture and history and perform poetry.

“I give light to my ancestors so that they may guide me by providing me light where there seems to be darkness,” Wilson said in a reading before the gathered crowd.

Wilson says she hopes the event will show others that anyone can make a difference in the world.

“Instead of hearing people complain about stuff all the time, I want to make it so people can see that instead of complaining you can be someone who takes action and make something happen,” she said.

Journee Evans, who helped Wilson organize Saturday's event, said, "With a little step you can run a whole mile, and I’m so glad we started this because hopefully this will build into something better.”

With the donation money taken in Saturday, the organizers say they want to help "create a community center for black and brown children so they can learn about their history."

The event was designed for families in mind. Wilson's uncle David Tette was overjoyed to help his niece put everything together.

"It's kind of a big change for me. I love her to death and I remember... when she was a baby and now she’s doing Juneteenth events. I'm very proud of her," Tette told FOX 17.

“We all want to vibe with everyone and have a good relationship no matter if you’re black, purple, green, orange a dog, cat, I don’t care what you are," he said.

After the success of Saturday's event, Wilson says she hopes to organize a similar gathering next year.

“I know a lot of times what stops people from doing things is thinking you can’t make a difference. Literally everybody doing something is making a difference," Wilson said.

"So I don’t want people to feel like you can’t help at all. Just the little things help, spreading knowledge and speaking your piece.”