Portage County is preparing to celebrate Juneteeth with celebrations in Ravenna and Kent.
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Crystal Scott, who has been organizing a Juneteenth block party in the Skeels neighborhood of Ravenna Township for several years, has decided to move the event to downtown Ravenna this year to make it a county-wide celebration. The event will take place from 11 am to 5 pm Saturday, June 18 and will feature a band, DJ, food vendor and children’s activities.
On Sunday, June 19, a group in the Southend of Kent will host a Father’s Day parade to Plum Creek Park, where a day of celebration will take place from noon to 6 pm The theme is Honoring Generations of our Legacy, said Fanette Merrett, one of the event organizers.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.
President Abraham Lincoln had declared that slaves were free in confederate states in 1863, but most did not comply until the Civil War was over in 1865. Although General Lee surrendered in April of that year, Texas slaves were not freed until Union soldiers, led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
The Juneteenth celebrations started in Texas and eventually moved into urban areas in surrounding states, eventually coming to Ohio. A large celebration takes place annually in Columbus.
Last year, Juneteenth became a federal holiday, but the news came only days before the holiday, allowing little time for community celebrations to be planned.
Portage County Juneteenth details
In Ravenna, Ms. Timi Funk will perform at the festival, and DJ Harry Dukes also will provide music, Scott said. There will be food from the Kindred Kitchen and a variety of vendors.
Those interested in participating as a vendor or volunteer can call or text Scott at 330-281-6030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Portage County has a lot to offer, and we really want to offer it,” she said.
Kent State University also will celebrate Juneteenth from 11 am to 6 pm Saturday at Manchester Field on the KSU campus. The Juneteenth Jubilee will include refreshments, special recognitions, vendors, live performances, music and dancing, and will showcase Black business owners to the community ..
Kent’s parade will step off at 11:30 am from the Kent Recreation Center on Franklin Avenue and proceed to the park.
Merrett said a committee of residents in Kent’s South End wants to expose young people to the traditions of the past and to honor fathers since June 19 is Father’s Day. In addition, the committee is planning a day’s worth of activities in the park.
Last year, Kent closed the park to thwart a large party that was planned there. Neighborhood residents said the parties that had taken place, which involved underage drinking and other violations of the law, were not organized by people in the community.
Merrett said the day will include old-fashioned games, such as sack races and kickball. A kickball game will pit members of the Kent police and fire departments against local residents. There also will be a family movie and a handful of vendors from the community ..
The event will honor the community’s elders, including some people in their 90s, and young people who have taken time to encourage others, she said. Gospel music also will be included because “that’s who we are as a community.”
Merrett said she is glad to see that the fathers and Black men of the community will be celebrated.
“It just means the world to me personally,” she said.
Reporter Diane Smith can be reached at 330-298-1139 or email@example.com.