Juneteenth events celebrate Black freedom across the Miami Valley

Juneteenth celebrations continued across the Miami Valley on Saturday, despite the rain and thunderstorms that came through the area on Saturday.

“They didn’t cancel slavery for 400 years,” said Kenya Baker, community outreach director with United Power, a community organizing group in West Dayton. “We aren’t going to cancel Juneteenth.”

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19, which is the day in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas learned they were free, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Baker organized a parade to begin at Gem City Market on Salem Avenue at 9:30 a.m. Heavy thunderstorms in the morning canceled the parade, but an event at 11 a.m. was still able to recognize 11 Dayton individuals who made significant contributions to the local Civil Rights movement in Gem City Market’s community room.

Among those honored was 91-year-old Veda Renshaw, who participated in sit-ins in the 1940′s and 1950′s.

She said she feels history is now repeating itself, especially with voting rights. Several state legislatures have recently passed new voting laws to address a perceived need for more election security but which critics say target Black people and would make it more difficult for them to vote legally.

Juneteenth is an important holiday to honor the past, Renshaw said.

“It is important because my ancestors were slaves, and when they were freed, some of them didn’t realize they were free,” she said.

In Springboro, dozens turned out for the first Juneteenth Jubilee, a day-long community celebration organized by Jubilee Community Church.

Craig Salmon-Gilmore has been pushing for just such an event for over a year. He called Juneteenth the African American “equivalent of the July 4 celebration of freedom.”

Salmon-Gilmore said the weather impacted the number of people who came out to the celebration on Saturday afternoon, but plenty of people were still at the event.

Meshawn Ryan of Springboro said she wanted to support Springboro’s initiatives for diversity and inclusion. Ryan and Salmon-Gilmore both noted that more Black people have been moving to Springboro in recent years.

“I think it’s very important for a community who’s getting more diverse by the minute, to be able to have activities that are just as diverse as their community,” she said.

About the Author