Ashland For Change to Host Inaugural Juneteenth Celebration

Myrna Hill

The Ashland Beacon

   Ashland For Change, a local grassroots organization dedicated to anti-racism education, is hosting the very first Juneteenth Celebration in Central Park on June 20, from 2 to 6 p.m.

   Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, is a holiday widely celebrated by the Black community as it notes the end of slavery in the United States. It was first celebrated in 1865 as the Union Army announced General Order No. 3, officially proclaiming freedom from slavery in the state of Texas. The Emancipation Proclamation is usually thought of as the document that freed the slaves, but it was nearly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was read until all slaves were freed.

   Ashland For Change has collaborated with the local NAACP chapter to put on this event. AFC Vice President Audra Thomas and other members have spearheaded planning while the NAACP has nailed down several event sponsors. 

   “Juneteenth is important to me because it truly signifies freedom for all.” Thomas said. “We are so grateful for and inspired by community activists who came before us, but we also felt the strong need to make history by bringing a Juneteenth celebration to Ashland.”

   Juneteenth is also widely known as Freedom Day and has been a tradition for over 150 years, with roots in Texas. Because the last slaves to be freed from slavery resided in Texas, that is where the tradition got its start. However, as African Americans were freed and could escape from the South, Juneteenth celebrations spread across the United States. 

   The Ashland area has history of slavery, like all Southern states. The McConnell House, located in Greenup County, is a historical site that was built using slave labor. The names and faces of the enslaved who once resided there are displayed inside. In addition, it is rumored that several homes in Ashland had ties to the Underground Railroad. 

   Much of the history about African Americans taught is usually riddled with suffering and despair. While it is crucial to be educated on the brutality African Americans faced and continue to face, celebrating and uplifting Black voices and joy is more important than ever. 

   “This event is so special because we are highlighting a pivotal moment for African Americans in our country. It is a celebration of freedom, a celebration of joy.” AFC member Kasheena Davis said. 

   With the Mayor of Ashland’s recent proclamation declaring the month of June as Celebrate Diversity Month, the celebration will be that much more special. With a special lineup of local musicians and food trucks, the inaugural Juneteenth celebration will be one to remember. 

   “We have gospel, soul, rock, funk, BBQ, desserts, and activities for kids. I am so excited!” Thomas added via Twitter. 

   “Juneteenth is an important part of Black history and part of our shared history as Americans.” Davis shared. “The new proclamation declaring June as a month to celebrate diversity firmly establishes an appreciation for people of color and the unique experiences we share as part of the larger community narrative.”

   Other members of AFC expressed excitement for the event as well. The group as a whole feels as though their hard work over the last year via social media has paid off, and people have been paying attention. With the return of in-person events as COVID restrictions are lifted, the group anticipates a great turnout.