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Community Voices Share Their Views About Juneteenth During A Time Of Racial Reckoning

Jun 17, 2020

A Juneteenth Flag and Michigan's declaration of "Juneteenth Celebration Day."
Credit Wikimedia Commons (TOP), State of Michigan (Bottom)

Friday, June 19th has been declared "Juneteenth Celebration Day" in Michigan by Governor Gretchen Whitmer commemorating the day in 1865 when slavery was abolished in the United States.  Following the deaths of several African Americans by police, a light has been shone nationwide on the problem of systemic racism in our country.

WEMU's Lisa Barry is talking--mostly listening--to a number of community voices about what Juneteenth means to them, beginning with Alize Asberry Payne, the Racial Equity Officer for Washtenaw County.


Washtenaw County racial equity officer Alize Asberry Payne
Credit Lisa Barry / 89.1 WEMU

Payne says that being a Black woman in America affects every aspect of her life.  To her, Juneteenth is all about "resilience."  This is particularly important in 2020, considering that not only have African Americans have had to deal with the recent acts of police brutality, but also the considerable devastation of their community resulting from COVID-19.

For historical context, Payne mentions how Juneteenth came to be.  It marked the day in 1865, where Black slaves finally received word of their freedom, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was passed and 39 years after Washtenaw County was founded.

Payne also believes Juneteenth should be very important to Ypsilanti residents.  The city was one of America's oldest free Black communities, especially with its connection to the Underground Railroad.

Education is also key to appreciating Juneteenth, according to Payne.  How far we've come as a community, she says, is mainly a "starting point" on understanding our history.  Of course, resting and enjoying time with family and friends is important as well.  

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu