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Government

West Lafayette Holds First Juneteenth Celebration in Tapawingo Park

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Organizer Dr. Deanna McMillan (right) presides over the opening ceremony (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

West Lafayette held its first celebration of Juneteenth on Saturday in Tapawingo Park, one day after it was declared a federal holiday last week. 

  

Organizers were quick to point out that they had been organizing the event long before a national holiday was declared. 

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Dr. Deanna McMillan organized Saturday's event (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

Juneteenth, sometimes called Black Emancipation Day, commemorates the moment when slaves in Texas were notified of their freedom. Texas was the last state to enforce the outlawing of slavery roughly three years after the Emancipation Proclamation. 

At the celebration in Tapawingo Park organizers began by marching to the stage alongside state and local officials and reenactors of the Fifth United States Colored Troops, who fought in the Civil War. 

Pastor Rodney Lynch opened the ceremony with a prayer. 

“We thank you god for a celebration of this day that we now have as a national holiday, Juneteenth, as a remembrance of the evil of this country but also a day of liberation.”

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Reenactors of the 5th United States Colored Troops, the most decorated unit during the American Civil War.

Organizer Dr. Deanna McMillan said she believes the commemoration of Juneteenth can bring people together. 

“Let this be the beginning of a long legacy in the Greater Lafayette area so that we can celebrate our past and collaborate to build a new future.”

West Lafayette City Clerk Sana Booker read a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth as a day for “honoring” the contributions of African-Americans to Tippecanoe County, the State of Indiana, and the nation as a whole. 

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State representative (D-West Lafayette) Sheila Klinker was in attendance Saturday (WBAA News/West Lafayette)

After the ceremony, Booker said Juneteenth hadn’t been widely accepted until this year because of what it represents to the country. 

“We don’t like to relive traumas and we don’t like to be embarrassed and it’s both of those things,” she said. “This country should be embarrassed by the history it kept and hid and pretended as if it didn’t exist. We must tell the truth, that is the only way for us to heal.”

 

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Opening ceremony at Saturday's Juneteenth celebration (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)