Juneteenth events in Anderson bring neighbors together

·3 min read

Jun. 19—ANDERSON — As she carefully arranged small baskets full of her homemade beaded bracelets and necklaces on a table beneath a tent, Dakayta McKinney paused as she considered why she and her friends were spending the afternoon with other residents of the 16th Street neighborhood near Madison Avenue.

"I just wanted to show some love and show people what I do," said McKinney, 12. "It's about coming out to support others."

The event, dubbed the Juneteenth Jamboree, observed the newest federal holiday, a proclamation of which was signed into law last year by President Joe Biden. It honors the anniversary of the day, June 19, 1865, when federal troops under the command of Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved Blacks of their freedom and the Civil War's end.

Juneteenth is considered the longest running Black holiday, and residents at the jamboree and other observances in Anderson on Saturday pointed to the community nature of their gatherings as capturing the spirit of the holiday.

"On the whole, it's all about community, and it has been about community for generations," Dennis Love said as he helped his cousin, Kenyatta Humphrey, set up a booth at the jamboree. "It's great that we can actually as a community in Anderson come together and show our community love for one another."

Angela Roberson, who owns a sewing and alterations business in Indianapolis, had a booth set up to sell handmade crocheted collectibles. She said that while she sees the holiday in many ways celebrating freedom, she also senses that owning and expanding those freedoms is a never-ending effort.

"To continue to be free in the United States is somewhat of a challenge, being an African American woman," Roberson said. "It can be challenging for anybody of our nationality, so I think for us to be able to come out and celebrate each other, that's one positive thing that we can take from this."

Willy Turner and other members of the Anderson Community Rejuvenation Committee organized a day-long event Saturday at the Anderson Preparatory Academy property on West 22nd Street near Jackson Park. Activities included a co-ed softball tournament, a 3-on-3 youth basketball tournament for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, and music, a fashion show and African dancers.

"We want to get everybody involved," Turner said. "We understand that it had to do with the last slaves finding out that they were free, but we want to just have fun and fellowship and bring attention to Juneteenth."

Other organizers said that, after two years of pandemic-induced cancellations, residents have been anxious to reconnect at events like Saturday's get-together.

"We decided to get this group together to bring the community back together, because everybody had been shut up so long," said Rosie Davis as she and her granddaughter, Poetic Ball, browsed a display of free books being given away by Heart of Indiana United Way.

"It's about togetherness. We want everybody — every race, every age, every group — everybody, come on down and have a good time."

The event was the first of three planned for the summer by the committee at the APA property. Other gatherings are scheduled for July 17 and Aug. 14.

Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.