FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – How can we help? That’s the question a local realty company asked its employees in the wake of the protests and riots following the death of George Floyd and the ongoing pandemic. “We just want to be a light and part of the solution of what’s going on here in Fort Wayne and really around the world,” said Keller Williams Realty CEO Caleb Ellington.
Weeks after his business was damaged when the George Floyd protests turned chaotic, Ellington talked with his staff about ways to unify the community. They decided to hold a community-wide celebration downtown in the KW courtyard off South Calhoun Street. They chose to have the event on June 19 because of the day’s historic significance, a day until recently Ellington knew nothing about.
“We just found out about Juneteenth and we’re so excited to be able to celebrate this day,” said Ellington. “It’s really an amazing day in American history.”
Juneteenth commemorates the day the last African American slaves in the United States gained their freedom. President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but slaves in Texas were not given the news until more than two years later on June 19, 1865.
Also known as Freedom Day and Jubilee Day, Juneteenth has been celebrated in Fort Wayne for many years. Weisser Park Youth Center would have held its 16th celebration this month, but this year because of the pandemic, it was canceled. Ellington says he’s glad his event offers an option with safety measures in place.
“We didn’t know that it wasn’t happening this year so to me it’s awesome that maybe we’re kind of filling that void. We’re going to have free masks available for people so when they get here they can put them on and we’ll be responsible with social distancing,” said Ellington.
They’ll also have food, courtesy of the Munchie Bin Food Truck owned and operated by Lance Clark.
“We’re going to serve hot dogs, chips, cold drinks and everything is free,” said Clark. “Just keeping it basic. We’ll have enough for several hundred people.
“We have our pavilion that’s going to be open,” said Ellington. “If the crowd overflows, right across the street below the AEP building is a huge area, so if we have to go that way that’s fine as well.”
Live music will also fill the Keller Williams pavilion and games and other activities will be offered that promote unity and education. “Hopefully it brings light to people who don’t understand what Juneteenth is all about,” said Clark. “I hope it gets more people aware that we need more unity, we need everybody sticking together. I’m honored to be a part of it.”
“Come and let’s just have a good time and celebrate this day,” said Ellington. “Let’s bring God’s love and light to the community.”
The Juneteenth celebration is Friday, June 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Keller Williams in the back courtyard and pavilion area off 930 South Calhoun Street. It’s free and anyone can attend.
Aardvark Home Inspections, Meridian Title, Ruoff Home Mortgage, Metropolitan Title, Bortner Home Inspection, Jackson Pest Management, Home Mortgage Inc., Titan Title, AAA Sewer Service, Fidelity Title and Quality Home Check are helping sponsor the event.