Battle Creek invited to annual celebration of families and history at Juneteenth event

Jun 13 2019

Battle Creek invited to annual celebration of families and history at Juneteenth event

*Originally posted on Second Wave Media’s On the Ground Battle Creek series.

Battle Creek’s annual celebration of the end of slavery will happen on June 14 and 15 at Claude Evans Park.

Known as the Juneteenth Family Day Celebration, the annual weekend-long observance marks the ending of slavery in America. Battle Creek’s Juneteenth celebrations began in 2003 initiated through the Battle Creek Senior Branch of the NAACP.

In 2005, the State of Michigan proclaimed the third Saturday in June, as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Michigan, thereby designating Juneteenth as a State Holiday. The event combined with another longtime event in the Battle Creek called Family Day in 2009, hence the name Juneteenth Family Day.

In 2005, the State of Michigan proclaimed the third Saturday in June, as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Michigan, thereby designating Juneteenth as a State Holiday. The event combined with another longtime event in the Battle Creek called Family Day in 2009, hence the name Juneteenth Family Day.

Christine Kosmowski, a member of the city’s Juneteenth planning committee, says the annual observance is critical to developing a deeper understanding of the significance of the abolition of slavery.

“I think it’s important for people to understand the significance of this,” says Kosmowski, former Calhoun County Water Resources Commissioner. “There was a two-year gap between the full end of slavery and when it was fully implemented and Juneteenth commemorates that.”

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863.

When it first became law, The Emancipation Proclamation had little compliance from Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance to the abolishment of slavery.

Battle Creek’s Juneteenth observance draws people from throughout Calhoun County and is easily one of the largest events of the summer, says Jeff Cotton, Engagement Manager for “On the Ground Battle Creek” which will be participating in the event. On the Ground is an online reporting project that began in October to tell the stories of people and organizations in Battle Creek who are making a positive and lasting impact.

Cotton says he, staff, and volunteers with On the Ground will be stationed near the Juneteenth Kid’s Corner and will have games, activities, and giveaways to offer as part of the celebration. There will also be examples of the stories that have been done since October.

“We want to engage with residents we would not otherwise be able to reach through Neighborhood Planning Council meetings or meetings held by the city,” Cotton says. “This is our chance to reach people who don’t attend these other meetings who also need to be active in the community. They may never have heard about On the Ground and they may not have come into contact with us or the larger community.

“These are everyday people who may meet up at the corner store or other areas of their neighborhoods. We have two days now to capture their stories.”

Cotton says he wants all residents to know that On the Ground provides them with an outlet for their voices to be heard. Through participation in real community action and taking advantage of opportunities to participate in already-established events such as Juneteenth, Cotton says On the Ground is able to reach out to audiences that may never have been given the opportunity to tell their stories.

“There are residents who really don’t engage with the city as much, they are working-class people who are focused on making better lives for themselves,” Cotton says. “We are also going to reach out to the children to give a voice to youth in our community.”

This year’s Juneteenth celebration begins on Friday evening, June 14, with a baseball game at Claude Evans Park, 300 N. Washington Ave., starting at 6 p.m. and ending with a showing of the movie Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.

The second day of the event is Saturday, June 15, where On The Ground Battle Creek will be sponsoring the “Kids Corner” and providing a full day of fun and storytelling for the kids from noon until 6 p.m. There will also be a Community Kickball game on the starting at 4 p.m.

The two-day event will include informational booths, food vendors, children’s’ activities, a softball game, three on three basketball, and the presentation of community service awards. It all begins at 11 a.m.

Cotton says the Juneteenth Planning Committee encourages everyone to come out, bring your family, and have some fun with your neighbors at this year’s Juneteenth Family Day.

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