Juneteenth fed holiday designation celebrated
Warren organization hosts 19th year of events, hopes for more turnout in future
WARREN — Community Concerned Citizens II didn’t need a federal mandate to celebrate Juneteenth.
The group is in its 19th year commemorating the arrival of Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, when he brought to the southernmost part of the Confederacy the news that the slaves had been emancipated.
“We were celebrating Juneteenth before we had permission,” Chawnelle Battle, financial secretary with the organization, said.
Still, having Juneteenth declared a national holiday Thursday was welcome news at the annual gathering at Quinby Park.
David Ruffin of Warren, who was tending the barbecue grills in the CCCII tent, said, “I jumped for joy. I’m a news hound, but I didn’t know it was going through. When I heard it passed the Senate, I was absolutely elated.”
Dan Houston of Warren, past president of CCCII, agreed.
“I was very happy about that because it’s a step toward educating people about Juneteenth,” he said. “People only think about the Emancipation Proclamation (in 1863). They don’t think any further.”
Houston said he hopes the federal declaration gets more people involved in the future, both in the African-American community as well as other ethnic groups.
“We celebrate with the Italians,” Houston said. “We go to the Greek fest, no problem. But we have to celebrate on our own.”
Battle said the federal declaration may make others more inclined to take part in the event, which included live entertainment, cultural and history displays, a poetry slam, a fashion show and a parade.
Nacole Vaughn of Warren said the Juneteenth celebration was extra special this year because the African American Achievers Association Festival in downtown Warren was canceled earlier this month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s nice to still be able to come together as a community for a celebration,” she said, and the federal holiday might enable the event to grow. “I’d like to see it as big as the Italian fest or the Greek fest.”
Her sister, Natasha Vaughn of Warren, saw the federal decision as a good start, but she would like it to inspire other changes.
“More unity, less violence,” Vaughn said. “Coming together as a nation, not just different races clinging together.”
Ruffin doesn’t see the national holiday as an end goal but more as a way to get a step closer to addressing other issues, such as economic and educational inequities.
“We need economic equality, programs built toward minorities becoming entrepreneurs,” he said. “I’d like to see a rejuvenation of lower-income housing. That’s wishful thinking, I know, but you have to start somewhere.”