PORTSMOUTH- In recognition of Juneteenth, the day noting the end of slavery in the United States, Unified Quest will be hosting their second annual celebration this weekend at Bannon Park.
Starting on Friday at 4 p.m., a celebration with local musicians and DJs, kickball, softball, and fireworks will take place. On Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., WatchMeGrow Ohio will host its weekly Young Growers Agriculture and Entrepreneurship program.
While celebration is at the heart of the event, Scioto County NAACP President and Unified Quest co-founder Andre Sappington said remembrance for its meaning is essential. He also welcomes its growth, as Ironton and Chillicothe residents make the trip into Portsmouth for what he said is the region’s sole Juneteenth celebration.
“We want to garner awareness, educate people about the significance of Juneteenth for the African-American community,” Sappington said in a Thursday phone interview. “What many African-Americans don’t realize is that this is our Independence Day.”
This year’s celebration marks the 156th anniversary of the day when Union soldiers reached Galveston, Texas and told the slaves that they had been freed and the Civil War had ended. It was more than two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law- making it the 12th national holiday and first since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
The legislation passed the U.S. Senate unanimously but had a few Republicans vote against it in the House. All Ohio lawmakers voted in favor.
“Throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names,” said Vice President Kamala Harris during a Thursday afternoon press conference. “Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day, and today: a national holiday.”
Harris said placing the day in this status allows the country to “take stock” of its historical significance, but also a teaching moment. The 13th Amendment, which formally abolished slavery in the U.S. Constitution, did not become ratified until Dec. 6, 1865- almost six months after Juneteenth.
“We are gathered here in a place built by enslaved people,” she said, the press conference taking place in the White House. “We are footsteps away from where President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. And we are here to witness President Joe Biden establish a national holiday. We have come far, but we have far to go.”
Sappington and fellow Unified Quest co-founder Joshua Lisath supported the day’s recognition, but like Harris, also believe more needs to be done to address long-standing issues facing Black people.
What is needed is fast, swift action to readily rectify injustice and inequality the duo said, where passing laws and thorough enforcement will result in more progress.
“For hundreds of hundreds of years, these things have continuously happened to African-American communities and there’s just been symbolic gestures and they really don’t carry weight,” Sappington said. “This is a great start, don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited by what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have accomplished.”
Lisath, as well, sees the move as a positive but is not content.
“We need more action,” he said. “There’s a lot further we need to go, but it’s better. It’s better than no progress.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at pkeck@ aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter. © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.