With social distancing guidelines in mind, families and friends gathered Friday evening at Heekin Park in Muncie to celebrate Juneteenth.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is a holiday to commemorate when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free in 1865, according to the Associated Press.
Anitra Davis, city councilperson and the event’s organizer, said she noticed Muncie never hosted an event to celebrate this holiday.
Within nine days to plan and help from several friends, Davis pulled together the event, which had booths promoting black mental health and booths for organizations like the NAACP and United Way of Delaware, Henry and Randolph Counties. There was also a cornhole tournament with a cash prize for the winner.
Although this was the first year she had organized a Juneteenth celebration, she said she can foresee future celebrations of this holiday in Muncie.
“I would like it to be an annual event, I would like it to be bigger and better,” Davis said.
Next year, she said she hopes to include more vendors and offer more than just a gathering but insightful conversations.
Mary Dollison, co-founder of Motivate Our Minds, a local after-school learning center, said she has always celebrated Juneteenth within her organization but never in the manner it was celebrated today.
“I’m thankful that someone did something to help people understand it,” Dollison said. “Muncie is really doing some neat things all over.”
When Motivate Our Minds was in its early stages, she said she made sure the children in her after-school enrichment program understood what Juneteenth was.
“We didn’t do a lot because we didn’t know about it back then,” Dollison said.
Apart from food, this year’s Juneteenth celebration had spoken word performances and booths to get people to register to vote, complete the census and sign up for mental health check ups.
Davis said the event is all about enjoying each other’s company without any stress.
“I want us to have a nice relaxing event where we’re socializing and talking about life,” she said.
Julie Mason, member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Complete Census County Committee, spent her time manning the census booth in the park.
Mason said while 61 percent of Delaware County residents have taken the census, she knows that number could be better.
“We have to do some more in these individual communities like Whitely, Industry, South and Ball State,” Mason said. “The purpose is to ensure that people are reminded to do the Census 2020 survey.”
Mason said completing the census will help put money back into the community which will help fix potholes and or improve community centers.
Davis said that Juneteenth is a holiday many people do not know about but it's worth celebrating.
“Unless you celebrate it like this … it’s just another day,” she said, adding she envisions the event is celebrated as “city-wide event like the Fourth of July with fireworks” for Muncie.