CLEVELAND — Saturday, hundreds of people are expected to march on Cleveland’s East Side for the Juneteenth Freedom Walk in celebration of the Juneteenth holiday. The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865 - the day enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas learned they were free, two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.
The walk starts at 11:30 a.m. at Benedictine High School. The entertainment, resources, and vendor village at Art and Soul Park will wrap up at 5 p.m. Organizers are requiring all participants to wear masks. They will also be distributing masks from Masks 4 Community.
“When that announcement was made, individuals in Texas began to cheer and to celebrate. And so it became acknowledged as the day by combining the word June and 19 because it was June 19, 1865 that the individuals that were still enslaved in Texas found out that they were actually free,” said Danielle Sydnor, president of the NAACP Cleveland branch.
The Cleveland NAACP is joining the Buckeye Summer Soul Series and Neighbor UP in organizing the Freedom Walk. It will start with a walk from Benedictine High School to Art and Soul Park on Buckeye where there will be entertainment and vendors.
People will also be able to receive information about the importance of registering to vote and completing the 2020 census.
Organizers say the Freedom Walk is an opportunity for all community members, but especially the Black community, to come together in solidarity and commemorate one of the most important days in Black history.
“While it is a celebratory event, we also want people to walk away feeling empowered, and understanding that they have a role in this democracy. As we continue to fight for continual freedom, we really have to make sure people understand all of the parts that they play in that,” Sydnor said.
The Buckeye Summer Soul Series has organized several Juneteenth celebrations in years past. Sydnor says the NAACP got involved this year because several members were asking what they could do in solidarity for the holiday in light of the civil unrest across the country stemming from the killings of Black men and women.
She believes one of the reasons Juneteenth has become a household topic this year is because those deaths, and especially George Floyd’s, have sparked an awakening in people around the world.
“I think the Black experience this year is resonating with more people. And as a result of that, Black people are feeling more comfortable to share and talk about the things that have always been important to us,” Sydnor said. “And now other individuals for a moment are stopping to learn and to listen and to ask more questions. And so I think it's powerful that as a Black community, we're even learning more about our history that's been denied from us.”
“The important thing about what we've seen happen is there's been an awakening. I believe in every generation there has been a significant event, generally something that's horrific, that has galvanized people to say enough is enough. If we look back, you know, in the Civil Rights Movement, you saw what happened to Emmett Till and his murder. You also saw Freedom Riders, especially white Freedom Riders that begin to die in the south,” Sydnor said. “And the community started to say, we can't keep moving forward like this. And so I believe that George Floyd's death happening the way that it did, has sparked something in not just Black people, but in people around the world. We're seeing protests, where people are saying we cannot continue the way that we are as a society and espouse that we believe that all people are created equal.”
Sydnor says while the Freedom Walk is a celebration, organizers also want people to walk away feeling empowered and understanding the role they play in our democracy.
Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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