Commentary: Leaving Fears Behind To Celebrate Community Events

By Derrell Connor Special To Channel 3000

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I attended the 21st Annual Juneteenth celebration at Penn Park in Madison.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Juneteenth and what it means, it is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1885, the Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of the Civil War, and that the slaves were free.

What’s notable — and quite remarkable — is that this announcement reached Galveston about two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. After hearing the news, the former slaves broke out in jubilation and celebration. That day became known as Juneteenth Day. It has become an annual festivity among African-Americans around the country.

Here in Madison, Juneteenth started as a small community event. Today, Annie Weatherby Flowers and Mona Adams Winston’s tireless work has helped turn the occasion into the largest African-American celebration in the city, with support and contributions from the Juneteenth committee, volunteers, non-profit organizations and for-profit corporations throughout greater Madison.

In fact, four years ago, USA Today named Madison the fourth best city in the country to celebrate Juneteenth.

It’s always great to see the parade, enjoy the activities, browse the community booths and grab a bite to eat. But most of all, it’s been wonderful to watch the community come together in such a positive way.

I say wonderful because all too often the negatives are highlighted when it comes to people of color, African-Americans in particular. We always hear when a shooting takes place in the Allied Drive area, or when bars and clubs like the Majestic or the Brink Lounge experience incidents of violence. But we don’t often hear about all the programs, events and gatherings that go off without a hitch. And I think that because of this negative publicity, there’s a perception among white people that attending African-American-themed events aren’t exactly the safest places to be. And that is false. The Juneteenth celebration serves as an example.

There are times when all of us have a tendency to confine and limit our personal or professional circles. We think we might not be welcome at certain places or feel uncomfortable because the people there may not look or behave exactly like us. Last I checked, this is what America was built on — a mixture of different races and cultures. If that’s the case, we have to learn to let our fears go and respect and enjoy each other’s backgrounds and cultures. There’s no telling what we may learn about other people, and maybe even find common ground and similarities.

If you have an opportunity in the coming months, consider attending the annual DiverCity Picnic in the park (July 29, 5 p.m.?7 p.m. at Warner Park), or the 10th Annual Streetball & Block Party (July 31, noon?7 p.m. at Penn Park), or next year’s Juneteenth celebration.

And leave your fears at home.