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Detroit caps off Juneteenth week of events with downtown rally

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

Detroit ended its week-long celebration of Juneteenth with a rally at the city’s Spirit Plaza on Friday.

Juneteenth—June 19—commemorates the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Texas learned they were free, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

Charity Dean organized Detroit’s events. She’s the city’s director of Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity. Dean said this year, the week was about “celebrating Black culture, but also inspiring people to action.” She said it’s “unfortunate” that many people don’t know what Juneteenth is, or what it means.

“The very foundation of our country is really built on racism and white supremacy, and history is a timeless treasure--a priceless treasure--that Black people don’t often have,” said Dean.

The rally included a libations ceremony to honor ancestors, African drumming, spoken word poetry, and voter registration and census participation drives.

Some activists also used the space to push their own set of demands, including alternatives to traditional policing.

Marcia Black was part of a group of organizers that set up the 313 liberation zone. She said it’s a way to educate people about what a world without police could look like.

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
The "liberation zone."

“Part of this autonomous zone is pushing this message that we keep us safe, so we don’t actually need police to be in public spaces with us for us to feel safe,” Black said.

Black called the city-backed Juneteenth celebration “a tactic that they’re doing very well to pacify people.”

“So we’re pushing back against this narrative that Detroit doesn’t have a police problem,” Black said. “We do, and we want to defund police.”

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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