Juneteenth: ‘I want it to be a celebration’

Published 2:15 pm Friday, June 21, 2024

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Speakers share stories, poems in 2nd annual event in A.L.

By Josephine Petersen

Juneteenth, a celebration of loss and life — a celebration of people, both the past and present.

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On Wednesday at The Broadway, Albert Lea had its second annual Juneteenth celebration.

Filled with all sorts of inspiring stories and funny jokes, the community celebrated and shared stories of their own and of others on the day set aside to remember the abolishment of slavery.

The main speaker of the night was Dr. Deborah Mitchell, executive director of the Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Host Day Peace and Mitchell sat down and talked about the importance of Juneteenth and how everyone has different experiences. Alongside this, she talked about her own experiences with Juneteenth.

To her, it’s a celebration, a time to get together and remember your ancestors. It’s also a time to remember and understand who you are, and to be proud of who you are.

Mitchell spoke of her hopes that eventually Juneteenth will be more than just a passing holiday, something that’s not only celebrated by the people it directly impacts.

Though Juneteenth should keep its importance, Mitchell said she thinks it shouldn’t become a commercialized holiday like many others.

“I want it to be a celebration,” she said. “Community comes together, we talk about issues, we celebrate each other. That is the peace I hope Juneteenth continues to be, and not commercialized.”

The celebration also involved a silent auction, with art made and submitted by local artists.

Peace, the evening host, has done Juneteenth events before, so celebrating in Albert Lea was something he was glad to do.

“I just wanted to be able to impact other communities that I’m around.” Peace said. “We want to invite everybody. We’re excited about this, this means something to us and I think if you come and hear some of the speakers that maybe you could walk away with more intrigue.”

Peace brought the night all together with both heartwarming and funny interactions with the night’s speakers.

Edwanda Lasonya Funches, Day’s mother, shared a poem with the community. The poem took the view of a mother speaking to her son of the hardships she has dealt with in her life — the racism, pain, sadness and hatred she felt. Yet the mother kept going and never gave up.

People will persevere and keep climbing.

The next poem was given by college student Erika Saindon, who shared a spoken word poem about truth and justice. She used poetry as a way to get her messages across.

“Poetry to me is a way of speaking things people are afraid to say. I’ve always used poetry as a way to express how I’m feeling, because it’s easier than actually saying it straight up.” Saindon said.

The poem she chose to read says how justice is blindfolded and that to truly be free people must keep remembering and fighting as the war against race is still going. The poem says people need to come together as a whole, not to turn their backs and overcome the issues they face.

Comedian Deangelo shared a story and jokes about the importance of teaching lessons to your children. He gave stories of his own experience being a father and having to teach his son to grow to be a respectable man, despite the world around him.

Fransheskalee Vasquez-Roldan shared a speech she wrote about the history of Juneteenth and why people must continue to teach the history.

Vasquez-Roldan spoke on how many tend to only focus on the negatives of the past, but instead need to change that and see the positives as well. Her speech emphasized the importance of teaching history and how the past still affects people today.

Vasquez-Roldan intertwined the book “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler into her speech and how it gives insight into the brutal pasts of history.