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Washtenaw County racial justice activist highlights Juneteenth message

Black Men Read co-founder Yodit Mesfin-Johnson.
Doug Coombe
Concentrate Media
Black Men Read co-founder Yodit Mesfin-Johnson.

Today - the 19th of June - is the day now recognized nationally as "Juneteenth". It’s the day in 1865 that American slaves received word they were officially freed. But a Washtenaw County racial justice activist is urging the local community to live the spirit of Juneteenth year-round.

Some call Juneteenth a second Independence Day commemorating the end of slavery and the first step toward inclusion. But local racial justice activist Yodit Mesfin Johnson says it is important for local descendants of slaves to realize freedom is still a dream to be achieved.

She points to what she calls a toxic conditioning of white supremacists that suggests people with black and brown skin are not as valuable.

“And so, I hope this is a moment for all of us to pause and think about supremacy in all it’s forms. And that we would contemplate for us to be free from that system."

She challenges all in the community to stay engaged in the Juneteenth spirit year-round to fight for racial parity in health care, education, housing, mental health and other areas.

Mesfin-Johnson will be focusing on the importance of African American freedoms tonight as part of a spoken word performance. That evening of poetry, conversation and music is planned from 7 to 8:30 tonight at The Ark on South Main in Ann Arbor.

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Cathy Shafran was WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
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