Celebrating Juneteenth this weekend in Michiana

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- Communities across Michiana are starting their Juneteenth celebrations this weekend.

The holiday marks the end of slavery in the U.S. when word of the Emancipation Proclamation finally got to slaves in Texas two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed it.

Hundreds visited the University of Notre Dame's DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Friday for their second Juneteenth Celebration Resource Fair.

Ted Barron, executive director of the performing arts center, said last year's resource fair saw roughly 700 visitors, and this year is even bigger.

"This is a nice way of setting this up so that people can get a lot of information about what's happening locally, but with a specific focus on BIPOC artists and Black-owned businesses," Barron said. "And to really celebrate the work that they do, which is fitting given the traditions of Juneteenth."

The fair featured about 50 local vendors, including Ladawn White with her Almost Vegan* bakery.

"I'm happy first that [Juneteenth] is being recognized first of all, and just the fact, it feels like liberation and freedom to me," White said. "Sometimes we're overlooked, and this gives us an opportunity to shine, and I'm here for it."

Juneteenth has only been a federal holiday since 2021, so Michiana is adding new celebrations each year, like the Tolson Center's first on Saturday.

"Juneteenth is a very important day in American history. It is the Independence Day for African Americans and their freedom," said Dr. Breanna Allen, executive director of the Tolson Center.

The Tolson Center has been back open for about 6 months in Elkhart.

"The day of celebration is to recognize all of the young people who are members here at the center, and the work they have been doing in the programs that we have," Allen said.

Find event information here.

Up in Southwest Michigan, folks can celebrate Juneteenth in Benton Harbor with the Juneteenth Parade at City Center Park starting at 1 p.m. Saturday.

This year, the community will honor Benton Harbor native Jack Hall, Michigan's first Black state trooper.

For more event information, click here.

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