Cedar Rapids Celebrates Juneteenth
By Nadia Crow, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - An annual celebration highlights the black community Saturday and also a tainted past. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the US. Each year around June 19th, cities across the nation honor the contributions African Americans have made.
The sounds of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” filled the Cedar Rapids Juneteenth Celebration Saturday morning.
“We’re just out here coming together in unity the way the black community should come together,” Mason and business owner James Weatherford said.
This year’s theme “Unity in the Community” hopes to inspire more positivity within the African American community in Eastern Iowa.
“There are a lot of great things going on in the city and this is just a way to showcase what’s going on,” said Juneteenth Committee Chair Heather Roberts.
More than a dozen booths featured companies with diversity initiatives, community groups, and minority-owned businesses.
“I encourage black people to start black businesses in Cedar Rapids. There’s definitely a need for it,” James Weatherford, a barber shop owner in the Czech Villiage said.
It’s that contagious attitude that helps combat the negative perception that blacks live in poverty and cause crime. Recent events like the “Stop the Violence March” show only a small number of people actually caused that stereotype. That’s why there’s a continued push to come together and share the good things happening in the area.
“This shows we can get together for something entertaining and not cause commotion or chaos,” African American Museum of Iowa Administrative Coordinator Katherine Smith, said.
Good music, great food, and smiles all around, leaders in the community hope this event will translate into passionate community development.
“Right now, we’re just trying to bring the community together in a positive way, just trying to lead by example,” Weatherford said.
Next year, organizers want to start a Juneteenth youth committee so kids can be a part of the planning and choose some vendors and entertainment for next year’s celebration.
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