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South Bend celebrates 'Juneteenth'

‘Juneteenth’ is a holiday you may not be aware of, but it was celebrated in downtown South Bend Saturday afternoon.

“I thank you for everyone that’s represented, every household that’s here,” a preacher leading prayer said to the crowd Saturday.

Hand-in-hand, black and white, dozens of South Bend residents marked the annual celebration of Juneteenth outside the Morris Theater on Saturday.

“Part of it is to celebrate our freedom,” South Bend Chapter of the Indiana Black Expo member Cheryl Ashe said.

A freedom granted back in 1865, when slavery was officially abolished and word spread through the Deep South.

Juneteenth is celebrated as an Independence Day, commemorating June 19, 1865, when the last of the African American slaves found out slavery had been abolished in America.

“Year after year they would celebrate,” Ashe said. “[To] remind themselves, you know, the joys of no longer being slaves.”

“And as people migrated out from Texas and [the Deep South], they took it with them, so we’ve been doing this here in South Bend for about 15 years now,” Ashe said.

The South Bend Chapter of the Indiana Black Expo hosts a Juneteenth celebration each year, honoring progress made, but also looking forward.

“We think about what some of our ancestors went through to get where we are today, but we need to make sure that we continue to celebrate, but also remember that we don’t want to repeat history,” South Bend NAACP President Terrell Jackson said.

The event provides a platform for local black businesses to showcase their products, along with opportunities for local political groups and schools to show Michiana’s youngest what’s possible.

“I see a lot of young people out here, so they’re learning their history and they’re carrying on the legacy and the tradition,” South Bend Chapter of the Indiana Black Expo President Craig Clark said.

A legacy and tradition organizers say is the foundation of this annual event, and something they hope to pass on to the next generation.

“It reminds [the children] that there once was slavery and that people celebrate their freedom,” Ashe said. “[And] not to take your freedom for granted.”

The South Bend Chapter of the Indiana Black Expo hosts events all throughout the year.

You can go to their Facebook page to find out how you can get involved. 

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