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Juneteenth celebration commemorates emancipation of slaves


Adriann Wilson, Clarisa Isom and Shulana Kpabar make a triangle sign with their hands June 19 at their booth in the Neal-Marshall Black Cultural Center. The women are members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and partnered with Half Price Books to give away free books. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

People of different races, ages and genders crowded into the Neal-Marshall Black Culture to celebrate Juneteenth, an annual commemoration of the emancipation of slaves.  

Juneteenth takes place every year on June 19. According to the holiday's official website, Juneteenth celebrations' first took place in Texas at the end of the Civil War.

Safe and civil city director Shatoyia Moss helped plan the Bloomington Juneteenth event. Moss said Juneteenth celebrations allow people to build relationships in their community.

"Slaves were owned,” Moss said. "So they couldn't go meet their neighbors."

The walls of Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center were lined with booths from the Bloomington community. Half Price Books sponsored a book giveaway to encourage summer reading and inform about the upcoming 2020 census. Mayor John Hamilton stood behind a booth for the City of Bloomington. City Church handed out Jimmy John's sandwiches.

Recent IU graduate Annastasia Shufford helped run the booth for City Church. She said this is her first year celebrating Juneteenth, and she was unaware of its existence until her pastor informed her.

Shufford suggested social media and outreach in one's community can get more people involved with Juneteenth.

"Right now in this space, it is not about your race or your beliefs, it is about community and growth," Shufford said.

IU graduate student Christina Elem said Juneteenth is a celebration of how far her people have come. She, like Shufford, did not grow up celebrating Juneteenth.

"Fourth of July was an independence day, but my people were still enslaved," Elem said.

Elem said she was unaware of the holiday until she began working at a history museum. As she continues to celebrate Juneteenth in upcoming years, Elem said she will begin her own traditions.

Moss encouraged people of all races to celebrate Juneteenth.

"It's a simple recipe," she said. "All you need is people, food and space."

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