Juneteenth marked

Social Justice For Us holds celebratory event in Marquette

Tamara Hunter, a Social Justice For Us board member, stands by the SJFU education board at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette Saturday during the nonprofit’s “Juneteenth: A Cultural Celebration” event. (Journal photo by Katie Segula)

MARQUETTE — Juneteenth, which was formally recognized as a federal holiday on Thursday, was celebrated by the local nonprofit Social Justice For Us during the “Juneteenth: A Cultural Celebration” event held Saturday at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette.

The park, which featured multiple vendors and activities, bustled with locals and tourists attending the celebration. Social Justice For Us had called for local support and donations to hold the family-friendly event Saturday, which had been planned prior to the official federal recognition last week.

“It came as a huge surprise when Juneteenth was made into a national holiday, because we were planning this before we found that out. So when that was announced, it was just a huge shock and it kind of validated why we were doing this,” said Tamara Hunter, a Social Justice For Us board member. “For me, it means a lot as a Black woman in the (Upper Peninsula), because Juneteenth is one of my favorite holidays. So to be able to celebrate in a place that I love, surrounded by people that support us, it is really humbling and I love that I am able to do that up here.”

The event featured vendors and a silent auction, as well as a stage for performances, a bounce house for children and a yard-sized chess board.

Organizers were glad to see the community support the event, they said.

Artist Jalen Sims, who was selling his artwork during the “Juneteenth: A Cultural Celebration” event held Saturday at Mattson Lower Harbor Park, holds up a piece of his art at his booth. “If I were to correlate the two (selling my art with Juneteenth), just the freedom as a human just to be out here and selling things and expressing myself through art and clothes,” Sims said. (Journal photo by Katie Segula)

“I am extremely grateful to all the volunteers (and) Lake Superior Brewhouse Pub — for serving up food and being flexible and working with us — Northern Michigan University and the Black Student Union for getting a grant to help us fund this,” Hunter said. “The BSU applied for a grant to help us fund this event, so that was awesome. Also, (thank you) to anybody that donated. To Alex from Barrel and Beam and Taste the Local Difference, she is killing it with the silent auction and raffle stuff. I cannot say enough how good of a job she is doing over there.”

Juneteenth was also formally recognized at the state level, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday issued a proclamation declaring June 19 as Juneteenth Celebration Day in Michigan.

“Juneteenth is an essential day of remembrance and a recognition of how far we still have to go to achieve our ideals of equity and racial justice in Michigan,” Whitmer said in a news release. “Over the past year, we have had long-overdue conversations about race and equity amidst an unprecedented global pandemic and shocking yet routine instances of violence and discrimination towards communities of color, especially Black Americans. Our racial reckoning reminds us that it is our responsibility, whether we are citizens or public servants, to change our laws and root out systemic racism in every aspect of our society from health care, housing, education, policing and more. I’m proud to declare June 19 as Juneteenth Celebration Day once again, and want to recommit us all to building a more equitable and just Michigan. “

Juneteenth originated on June 19, 1865, when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, where he read General Order No. 3, stating that all enslaved people were free, and that former masters and enslaved people were “absolutely equal in personal and property rights,” officials said in the release. Acting as the date of emancipation, June 19 also became “a long-standing day of celebration, meant to honor African-American resilience and the end of slavery,” the release states.

“Juneteenth is an important day to commemorate the progress we’ve made in the fight for racial equity, while also recommitting ourselves to the ongoing work that still needs to be done,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said in the release. “As a Black man in America, I know the pain of racism and injustice personally. Far too many Black Americans and other people of color continue to suffer as the result of racism and discrimination that communities of color face every day. Black Michiganders deserve a state that celebrates, listens to, informs and empowers them. I will work every day to advocate for policies that protect and expand access to justice and opportunity.”

Brook Adams and Alisha Arnsparger play with the dog Fisher while enjoying the Juneteenth celebration on Saturday. (Journal photo by Katie Segula)

Social Justice For Us, which is located in the Campfire CoWorks space at 132 W. Washington St. in Marquette, is a nonprofit organization that focuses on uplifting the voices of marginalized people in the area, organizers said.

Its mission is to promote “socially aware critical thinking by providing education, spreading awareness, demonstrating peaceful community collaboration and distributing resources locally,” according to its website.

Social Justice For Us supports under-represented peoples, including but not limited to Black, indigenous and other people of color as well as LGBTQIA+ and impoverished communities, its website states. Visit at www.socialjusticeforus.org for more information.

Katie Segula can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is ksegula@miningjournal.net.


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