FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – When asking many in the Black community what Juneteenth means to them, one of the first words that comes to mind is freedom.
“It means freedom, but not 100% freedom,” said Janice Norfleet, the moderator of Thursday’s ‘Lawn and Learn’ conversation at the Fort Wayne Urban League. “It means that we’re free, but some of us don’t know that we’re free.”
Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, the day when the last enslaved people in Galveston, Tex. were notified they were free. Awareness of Juneteenth has grown in recent years, and President Joe Biden has signed off to make the day a federal holiday.
Following Thursday’s signing by President Biden, WANE 15 visited Juneteenth celebrations at the Fort Wayne Urban League. Many are happy Juneteenth is being recognized as a federal holiday, yet they want to make sure the real meaning of the day is not lost.
“I think it needs to be recognized,” said Eric Baker, who attended Thursday’s ‘Lawn and Learn’. “Anything that is truthful in our history needs to be brought to light and needs to be shared.”
“I never needed a holiday to celebrate Juneteenth,” said Zynette Paige. “I celebrate Juneteenth because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s a celebration of my ancestors. When I look in the mirror I saw them, and when they looked in the mirror, they saw me.”
Weeklong celebrations of Juneteenth continue in Fort Wayne throughout the week. An “Under the Tent” event will take place Friday night at Ayahso Nice Jamaican Grill and Creamery on Hessen Cassel Road. On Saturday, the Fort Wayne community is invited to celebrate Juneteenth at McMillen Park.