Hundreds of Springfield area residents came together at Washington Park Saturday to celebrate Juneteenth, the day that marks the end of slavery in the United States.
The event was originally scheduled for last weekend, because Juneteenth is June 19, but it was rescheduled because of the threat of severe weather.
The event started with a walk from City Hall to Commercial Street to the festival grounds at Washington Park. The park event included speakers, music, food, and activities for kids and families including a basketball tournament.
“We want everyone to come together,” organizer Jamille Jones told reporters. “We everyone to realize we’re on the same team. We want everyone to respect our authorities and our leaders, but also at the same time hold them accountable.”
Jones said that it’s possible for everyone in the community to work together to bring the necessary changes to bring equality.
“We can do this together as a community,” Jones said. “We don’t have to go against each other to get things done. If we just sit and be with each other and understand each other, we can finally have a change.”
Wes Pratt, longtime community activist and Missouri State University’s Chief Diversity Officer who was invited to speak at the event, told OI he was encouraged by what he saw at Washington Park.
“I think this is a great event to recognize the history of African-Americans,” Pratt said. “I’m impressed by the diversity of the crowd that’s here. They value the Black Lives Matter movement and what that means hopefully to the change that we need in America. I think it’s a great event and I’m glad to be a part of it.”