Juneteenth event showcases ‘amazing diversity’ in DeKalb, organizer says

Juneteenth celebrated at Hopkins Park in DeKalb with local social service groups and vendors

Dancers show off their moves at the bandshell during the Juneteenth Community Celebration Saturday, June 15, 2024, at Hopkins Park in DeKalb.

DeKALB – It was beginning to look a lot like a party Saturday at Hopkins Park in DeKalb, with all the food, family fun, music and dancing.

The occasion was New Hope Missionary Baptist Church’s fourth annual Juneteenth Celebration.

Juneteenth is a federally recognized holiday commemorating June 19, 1865, when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed, which came two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

The Rev. Joe Mitchell, senior pastor at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb, said although the Fourth of July is observed by many, he believes it’s important for people to recognize Juneteenth as well.

“Because on the Fourth of July, African Americans in this county were not free. They were still enslaved,” Mitchell said. “Juneteenth is an opportunity to truly celebrate the real liberation and freedom and liberties of people in this country – all Americans, including African Americans.”

Similar to years past, the event had food trucks, 25 to 30 vendors, family fun, music and dancing at the bandshell.

It’s definitely a family event. It’s a great day to come out to the park and hang out with your family and really immerse yourself in the amazing diversity that makes you tell them the awesome community that it is.”

—  The Rev. Joe Mitchell

Sycamore resident Heather Tomlinson was checking out the vendor booths with her two sons.

“I’m really excited to see the amount of people that are here,” Tomlinson said. “Hopefully more people will come. It looks like it’s a good party.”

Tomlinson said attending Saturday’s event prompted her to initiate a discussion with her sons about the significance of Juneteenth.

“We are talking about it, and they’re learning a little about it,” Tomlinson said. “This is the first time we’ve ever really had the conversation. I like to expose them to everything I can. We have foreign-exchange students come.”

DeKalb resident Joann Lackey was selling original poetry at one of the vendor booths during the Juneteenth Celebration. She said her work generally tends to move people.

“People are inspired by my poems,” Lackey said.

Lackey said she believes her poetry has a powerful way of bringing different people together.

She said it’s all about “calm, peace, laughter and sharing life experiences with different people.”

DeKalb resident Shawni Robinson, 19, was perusing the information and offerings made available at the vendor booths. She said she believes the perfect Juneteenth celebration is about people.

“It would have to be getting with the community, getting out and just learning about history,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that observing Juneteenth has great meaning to her.

She said she values “remembering the struggle for freedom within the Black community and just seeing how far we’ve come in terms of our rights.”

Mitchell said he’s grateful for how the event strives to bring together people of all different backgrounds in the community.

“It’s definitely a family event,” he said. “It’s a great day to come out to the park and hang out with your family and really immerse yourself in the amazing diversity that makes you tell them the awesome community that it is. It’s a great opportunity to talk about American history and understand the depths and the breadths of American history that is often not talked about in our history classes, and let it be an opportunity for us to learn and grow together to make DeKalb much closer to the beloved community that we believe it can be.”

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