A Sense Of Refuge And Peace: Reflecting On Cleveland's Juneteenth 2020
It’s been one week since Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. The day took on added meaning this year amid the demonstrations against racism and police use of force against Black people.
One local Juneteenth event, in the Buckeye neighborhood on Cleveland’s East Side, drew hundreds of participants for a freedom walk, an outdoor market featuring Black-owned businesses and live music. The event’s co-organizer, Aisia Jones, reflected on the day with ideastream’s Justin Glanville and what the future holds.
You said about 400 or 500 people came, based on your estimate. Who was coming, and what were they looking for?
With everything that's going on, that has gone on and is still going on, I think a lot of people wanted to come and really feel some type of peace.
Clearly people were there to have a good time, to celebrate. There were some people that wanted to spend their money with Black businesses; they came there just for that. Some people came because they have not been out of the house. They haven't seen any other people. You understand what I’m saying? So, a sense of refuge, a sense of peace.
The event kicked off with a Freedom Walk in the Buckeye neighborhood. [Ernest Hatten]
When we spoke before the event, you were not planning on having any Cleveland police presence there, instead reaching out to Black-owned security companies. But you did end up having some police escorting the freedom walk and march. How did you feel about them being there?
I wasn’t mad because they didn’t cause any issues. The thing about it is, Saturday and Juneteenth is about us. We didn't want it to be about them. And we didn’t want anyone that was attending to get fearful or discouraged. We didn’t want that day to be about police. We didn’t want that, at all.
And I think them having their small team and escorting us as we walked and marched through, I think it was beautiful.
Would you say that the way the police participated that day changed your perspective on them at all?
No, I mean, I'm not going to say it changed. They were literally there to escort us and keep us safe from being harmed with any vehicles [by blocking intersections].
So I don't think my perspective has changed, but I'm glad that they were [only] there in the capacity that they were. When police are around, there are certain Black people who feel threatened, who feel scared. All of us do, really. Why are they here? And I still stand by that. I mean, we still definitely need police reform.
Several vendors, such as these from Suds Brewing Company, reported selling out their inventory. [Ernest Hatten]
You were hoping this event would give people information and inspiration about what’s next in the movement for racial equality. Do you think people got that?
A lot of people even in the Black community didn’t understand what Juneteenth is about. People are understanding, are getting more information. They got a lot of information about the census and how important that is, about voting and about unity, how we start together. People there that day took their census. So those aspects are part of the next step.
Those Black businesses selling out is a part of it. And to understand that Black businesses are more than just shirts, are more than just hair products, are more than… beauticians and stylists. And people got a sense of that that day.
So it was a lot going on, I thought it was a huge success. I felt very overwhelmed with love, and I thought it went great.
Aisia Jones said non-black participants were there "to understand us, to understand our grind." [Ernest Hatten]
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