JACKSON, Mich. — Jackson’s annual Juneteenth Community Celebration and Resource Fair kicks off Friday, but some began their celebrations on Wednesday.
Outside of the Michigan Military Heritage Museum Wednesday night, a small group of community leaders came together to discuss the importance of Juneteenth, which marks the day when slaves in Galveston, Texas, found out they have been freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
According to Jackson historian Linda Hass, in the mid-1800s, most people were opposed to slavery in Jackson but did not want to press the issue because they felt a war would ensue.
But Jackson abolitionist Charles DeLand, who was a newspaper editor, went to war.
“He waged war against slavery with his pen in the newspaper, and then in 1861, he traded the pen for the sword,” Hass said. “He enlisted in the Civil War and actually founded the Michigan Sharpshooters Regiment. He was wounded multiple times. He was a prisoner of war multiple times, but still, he refused to stop fighting against what he called, ‘slave power.’”
During the ceremony, members presented a flag in commemoration of Juneteenth.
Coordinator Kathy Schmaltz said there was a lot of symbolism on display.
“It just reminds us that everybody should be treated equal, and everybody should be treated free. Everybody should be kind to each other regardless of race,” she said.
One of the flags went to Jackson County Sheriff Gary Schuette.
“When you’re fighting for justice, you’re always going to have opposition. But, as Juneteenth is a day to remember you will get there, and I encourage you to keep fighting. Don’t give up against opposition,” Lily Missionary Baptist Church Rev. James Hines said.
On Friday, there will be a panel discussion at the Michigan Theatre on racial inequalities, social justice and criminal justice reform. Doors open at 9:30 a.m., and the discussion begins at 10 a.m.
At 6 p.m. Friday, people can watch the stage play “1619 Welcome to America” at the Michigan Theatre.
On Saturday, a resource fair and job fair will be held at True Community City Square in downtown Jackson from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will be food, vendors, a kids zone with games, a foam party and a petting zoo along with live entertainment.
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