Unity Walk highlights Juneteenth event Monday at Statehouse

13 News at Six
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 2:18 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - About 50 people attended a Unity Walk and Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony Monday on the south steps of the Statehouse in downtown Topeka.

Gov. Laura Kelly was among the speakers at the event. Kelly signed a proclamation marking June 19 as Juneteenth Day in Kansas.

In her remarks, Kelly noted Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 after it was signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Several other speakers took part in the event, including Beryl New, a member of the Kansas African Affairs Commission.

“It’s a time when we’re celebrating the fact that our ancestors were made aware that they were free,” New said after the ceremony, “and because of that freedom, they have every civil right, every human, right, that any other American has.”

Steven Massey, a Topeka resident, said he was glad to see Juneteenth being celebrated in his hometown.

“The importance of Juneteenth,” Massey said, “is just for us as a culture, as a community -- not just the black community, but the community at large -- to understand the importance of Juneteenth, the celebration, and what it’s about.”

Other speakers included Norma Avery, Sherri Camp and Stacey Knoell.

About midway through the hour-long program, attendees took part in a Unity Walk on the south grounds of the Statehouse, in the 300 block of S.W. 10th Ave.

Early in the program, the United States flag and the Juneteenth flag both were posted in bases near the south steps of the Statehouse.

Event organizers said that in addition to Kansas, every state in the Union was to be represented by a group raising the Juneteenth flag at noon in its local time.

Several other events are scheduled in conjunction with Juneteenth in Topeka, including:

11 a.m. Saturday, June 11 -- Juneteenth Parade starting at Williams Magnet School, 1301 S.E. Monroe, before going north on Kansas Avenue in downtown Topeka. A program will follow at Cushinberry Park, near S.E. 15th and Madison.

6 p.m. Monday, June 13 -- Youth Celebration, New Beginning Baptist Church, 1329 S.W. 37th.

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 14 -- Taco Tuesday, Betty Philips Park, 3303 S.E. Irvingham.

6 p.m. Thursday, June 16 -- Essay contest banquet, New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 2801 S.E. Indiana Ave.

5 to 9 p.m. Friday, June 17 -- Youth event at Hillcrest Park, 1800 S.E. 21st.

Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 18 -- Juneteenth celebration at Hillcrest Park and Community Center, 1800 S.E. 21st.

3 p.m. Sunday, June 19 -- Gospel Extravaganza, St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church, 701 S.W. Topeka Blvd.

Juneteenth commemorates the date of June 19, 1865, when news that slavery had been abolished reached Galveston, Texas.

The news arrived in Texas more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, on Jan. 1, 1863, abolishing slavery in the United States.

Celebrations were held in Texas after blacks learned they were free. Known as Juneteenth, the celebrations later spread to other parts of the nation.

Juneteenth celebrations have been held for more than 40 years in Topeka.

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