Kettering Juneteenth speakers acknowledge both progress and scars

Juneteenth in Kettering, a Celebration of Shared Freedom, was held Monday, June 20, 2022 at Polen Farm in Kettering. Several speakers addressed issues surrounding the new national holiday at the luncheon event. MARSHALL GORBY \STAFF

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Juneteenth in Kettering, a Celebration of Shared Freedom, was held Monday, June 20, 2022 at Polen Farm in Kettering. Several speakers addressed issues surrounding the new national holiday at the luncheon event. MARSHALL GORBY \STAFF

The Kettering community came together Monday for the city’s first official Juneteenth celebration, pairing food and live music with conversation on important racial issues.

The sold-out gathering at Polen Farm gave attendees a chance to get to know each other over lunch before speakers shared the long history of the the holiday that was just recognized by the federal government in 2021.

Kettering Mayor Peggy Lehner encouraged those in the crowd to be advocates for their community members.

“And, though we celebrate change today, the scars of deplorable injustices will be ever present,” Lehner said. “As a community, we will stand and attempt to end racism and everything those scars represent.”

The mayor said she was thrilled with the turnout of the event and hoped the celebration will become a long tradition in the city of Kettering.

Two student winners of the Kettering City Schools’ Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest read their submissions and demonstrated how racism has personally impacted them, their families and their communities.

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Faheem Curtis-Khidr, professor at Sinclair Community College, gave a speech titled, Black in the Promised Land: Understanding the Local National and Historical Importance of Juneteenth, at Kettering's Polen Farm on June 20, 2022. MARSHALL GORBY \ STAFF

Faheem Curtis-Khidr, professor at Sinclair Community College, gave a speech titled, Black in the Promised Land: Understanding the Local National and Historical Importance of Juneteenth, at Kettering's Polen Farm on June 20, 2022.  MARSHALL GORBY \ STAFF

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Faheem Curtis-Khidr, professor at Sinclair Community College, gave a speech titled, Black in the Promised Land: Understanding the Local National and Historical Importance of Juneteenth, at Kettering's Polen Farm on June 20, 2022. MARSHALL GORBY \ STAFF

Faheem Curtis-Khidr, an assistant history professor at Sinclair Community College, shared the history of slavery and racism in America. He explained the importance of Juneteenth on a national, state and local level.

Cognitive dissonance around issues of slavery and racism gives the false impression that the Dayton area was immune to the injustices of the past because it is part of the North, according to Curtis-Khidr. Dayton and Cincinnati communities passed legislation throughout the 1800s that contributed to segregating the area, creating sundown towns and sparking “white flight” in the region.

“We cannot practice cognitive dissonance,” Curtis-Khidr said. “We are knee-deep in it here in southwest Ohio.”

Self-education events and community conversations are two of the ways Curtis-Khidr encouraged people to commemorate Juneteenth.

Amy Baird, Andrea Cooks and Naja Long came out to the event because their workplace, RA Cooks Renovations, is new to the city and they want to connect with the community. Patrice Wolf and her husband heard about the celebration at their church and invited their neighbors to come with them.

Furaha Henry-Jones, a longtime Kettering resident, said “it was at times very difficult being Black in this community.” She said she was once the only Black teacher at Fairmont High School. Seeing the progress of the community she has lived and worked in for years nearly brought her to tears.

“When I walked in, I just wanted to cry. It means so much,” Henry-Jones said. “Things like this, for me, say that we’re moving in the right direction ... The work that it took to get to this point was happening before we were using terms like diversity, equity or inclusion, and to see it coming together like this is just really powerful. A lot of people have done a lot of great work.”

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