Washtenaw United: Juneteenth and Ypsi's Black Lives Matter Boulevard
WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw County to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'
ABOUT TRISCHE' DUCKWORTH
Trische' Duckworth is the executive director of Survivors Speak, a lead consultant on Value Black Lives, and a member of the planning committee for this year's Juneteenth celebration.
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and I'm David Fair with another edition of our weekly conversation series, Washtenaw United. We are just six days away from Juneteenth. It is a day marked in recognition of June 19th of 1865. That's when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas. We are also marking the one-year anniversary of the painting of a street in Ypsilanti with big, bold, yellow letters that spell out "Black Lives Matter." It is now known as Black Lives Matter Boulevard. Joining us today is Trische' Duckworth. She is a founder of Survivors Speak. She is lead consultant with the group Value Black Lives and is a member of the Juneteenth Planning Committee. Welcome back to WEMU, Trische'.
Trische' Duckworth: Thank you so much for having me.
David Fair: As we approach Juneteenth, I'm interested in learning what that day means to you personally.
Trische' Duckworth: You know, it means so much, right? It's definitely commemorative of what happened and us standing in solidarity to remember the release of slaves in Texas in 1865. And we get a lot of feedback like, "Why does that even matter? It wasn't even happening here. The slaves were already free here, right? But in our minds, some of us still aren't free. And you know what that means? Until all of us are free, none of us are free. So, this is also not just a time of celebration, but it is a time to reflect on how we can move forward and celebrate the work ahead, because the work ahead is great.
David Fair: So, we're 157 years beyond the day for which Juneteenth is marked, and, as you have mentioned, we've had some plateaus, we've also had canyons, and the ongoing civil rights movement since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer. The dialogue has at least elevated again. In your estimation, have we advanced towards that freedom you speak of when it comes to policy since that horrific day?
Trische' Duckworth: Unfortunately, I would say no. And we have a president, with all due respect, that could have signed the George Floyd bill with one stroke of a hand. Now, they did just pass some legislation lately that talks about police violence and things of that nature. But it's not what we need. We need aggressive, we need radical change, when it comes to legislation. And until we get that, Black and Brown lives are just not safe. They're just not safe in their own neighborhoods. They're not safe from community--excuse me, not they're--we're not safe from policing. We're not safe from legislation that would not keep us safe as a people. So, there's so much work to do. Yes. Well, again, legislation was passed. There is so much more work to do when it comes to uplifting Black and Brown lives in the community.
David Fair: Washtenaw United and our conversation with Trische' Duckworth continues on 89 one WEMU. In the wake of the George Floyd murder, the Black Lives Matter movement exploded across the nation and right here at home. And, locally, we're also marking the one-year anniversary of the painting of an Ypsilanti street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Boulevard. Now, Trische', you were highly involved in helping that happen. When you walk the roadway and you see Black Lives Matter painted out in yellow lettering, what does it make you think about?
Trische' Duckworth: You know, it makes me think about how those words represent so much more than a mural. Those words are the very essence of why we do what we do. Because until Black Lives Matter to everyone, we're going to continue to see some of the things that we see. So, for me, it's always reflection. It's always encouragement to look forward and see what's ahead. Because, like I said earlier, the work is great. There's so much work to do, and we need all hands on deck. So, for me again, that is just encouragement to keep moving forward and to keep fighting and to gather as many people as we care because we need all hands on deck.
David Fair: And speaking of gathering people, I mean, shortly after that street mural was initially painted, it was defaced and had to be repainted. And the community did come together to get that done in rather quick fashion. To my knowledge, there's not been another incident like that. But how rewarding was it to see the community step up not once, but twice?
Trische' Duckworth: You know it was just an amazing feeling. First, let me say, to see the desecration of the mural like that, it was eerie. It was scary. It was just an evil, hateful presence. And I'll never forget the day down there. There were so many people because they had a meeting down there that day. And, you know, it was just a day that was just a setback per say. But, at the end of the day, for myself, there's always hope, right? And so, the community came together. I mean, my phone started ringing instantly with donations for people to, you know, send in donations, so that they can help us to buy the paint. I mean, the community wrapped around us so quickly and came together. We came together about two weeks later, and the mural was completed so quickly. But it was just a day of love. Mr. John Lawrence was out there with us. Local restaurants sent food down to us. I mean, it was just a day of community love and community bonding. And so, every time they deface this, that's what we'll do. That's what we'll do, because we're stronger together.
David Fair: And that is something to build upon. Now, Black Lives Matter Boulevard is certainly a mural. It is a gesture and a statement and a symbol. What does the summer hold for Black Lives Matter in our community?
Trische' Duckworth: Wow. Well, great question, because we want to amplify Black Lives Matter everywhere. And so, we are starting with a repaint for our anniversary at Black Lives Matter Boulevard. We're also putting some Black Lives Matter buddy ventures out there as well. So, folks can just take a seat and sit there and reflect exactly what Black Lives Matter means to them and weigh what their commitment is to this fight. And then, from there, we're so excited because we are going to be putting murals down in Ann Arbor. We'll be at Gallup Park, and we'll be at Wheeler Park. So, people say, "Why are you putting there? Why are you putting it there?" We want to put Black Lives Matter everywhere, not just so that it's some cosmetic feature or something that looks grand for the area that it will sit here. It's so that everyone will have a reminder that, daily, they should be doing things to uplift Black lives and bring about Black liberation. Because it's time.
David Fair: Once again, this is 89 one WEMU, and we are talking with Trische' Duckworth on this edition of Washtenaw United. And, on Juneteenth, and that weekend, there is going to be a celebration in a number of locations around the state and country, including in Ypsilanti. And, Trische', you are a part of the Juneteenth Planning Committee. And there's a two day celebration, Saturday and Sunday. What can we expect?
Trische' Duckworth: Well, first of all, I want to say the planning committee consists of Leah Chapman from the Community Mental Health Black Lives Matter Task Force. Puffer Reds is a well-known apparel store, but much more than that in downtown Ypsi. We have Ypsi Marketing and Print that is a part of this. That's Mr. Travis Willis. Men and Women Working for Change--Women and Men Working for Change--with the executive director, Miss Cherissa. There are just so many people at the table. Survivors Speak and our program director Jasmine Bradford and our program assistant Kelly Zachmeyer. Everyone is just committed for this grand, two-day event. It's going to be a weekend celebration. Well, actually on Friday, we're going to come together and have a business mixer, which is just vendors alone. And then, on Saturday, we have a festival planned from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., which is going to wrap with a concert, a jazz concert, with Miss Kenyatta Rashon, Dames Brown, and also, everyone knows Mr. John Lawrence. And then, on Sunday, we're going to come back with a celebration of worship. And, 1:30 to 2:30, we'll have a church service with Pastor Tracy and evangelist Frances McMullan, who's also our city manager in Ypsilanti. Then, we have a comedy show from 2:45 to 3:45. And then, at 4 p.m., we have a gospel extravaganza, a concert like you've never seen before with Shelby 5 and Semaje as the headliners and some local greats. So, we're excited.
David Fair: I think sometimes people have the perception that Juneteenth is exclusively a Black holiday. It seems to me it should be marked by everyone who celebrates the end of slavery, and that further change is dependent upon a joining of minds and spirits regardless of color. You have said we all have a debt to pay to help uplift and bring about change. How can the weekend's celebration advance the level of needed cooperation between all peoples?
Trische' Duckworth: You know, that is the thing when it comes to freedom, when it comes to Black liberation, when it comes to reparations, which is a conversation we're going to be started very soon. As I said, all the time, we need all hands on deck. Black folks did not start slavery, and we can't end it, right, because we have folks that are massively incarcerated, still enslaved to this day. So, it's going to take all hands on deck. That's Black. That's white. That's any color, right? And I hate those colors because we're not a box of crayons. We are one people. We're one human family, all brothers and sisters in this human race. And if something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us. And so, we all have a charge. We all have a debt to pay. And we all need to step up and pay it.
David Fair: As always, I thank you for spending time with me today, Trische'.
Trische' Duckworth: Well. It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
David Fair: That is Trische' Duckworth. She is founder of Survivors Speak, lead consultant with Value Black Lives, and a member of the Juneteenth Planning Committee. For additional information on the topics we've covered today, visit WEMU dot org. Washtenaw United is produced in partnership with the United Way of Washtenaw County, and you hear it every Monday. I'm David Fair, and this is 89 one WEMU FM and HD one Ypsilanti.
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