By Carla Calhoun
The day was sunny and warm with high winds. The streets leading to the boulevard were blocked off for the parade led by the Cleveland Mayor, the honorable Justin Bibb.
The Cleveland Observer (TCO) had the opportunity to host a vendor table at the African American Cultural Gardens (AACG) Juneteenth celebration. TCO provided sports balls, candy, hand sanitizer, wrist bands, and informational pamphlets for the senior population.
At the foot of the beautiful African American monument was a mock stage with a musical band, a drum circle, and African storytellers dressed in colorful African attire. Chairs were lined in rows for viewers who were excitedly anticipating the start of the program.
Children’s activities were across the street from the monument, and care was provided with games and giveaways hosted by AACG member Earnestine Baker.
The speaker asked for permission from an elder to begin the program, and homage was then made to past elders while onlookers called out various deceased relatives.
Mayor Bibb arrived and was happily received by the viewers. During Mayor Bibb’s speech, he stated, ”Although we are free, we still have a lot of work to do across this city, across this state, and across this country. This concept of freedom is not a binary thing; not something you turn on and off. It’s something you have to fight for, engage in, something you have to live every single day for.” Bibb went on to say, “so my call to action for all of you this weekend is what are you going to do to make sure the promise of freedom for black people is not just Juneteenth, not just Black history month, but 365 days out of the year? This garden is important for young people because you can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been.”
Throughout the gardens were various vendors selling jewelry, African artifacts, and books. They also were providing information and recruiting volunteers for their programs.
One such group was the Extended Family Organization, which is a non-profit that provides a variety of activities for youth. The Extended Family Traveling Underground Quilt was on display, and a member shared the history of the Underground Railroad with on-lookers.
At the cultural gardens’ Peace Plaza, youth participated in a talent show displaying singing, creative dance, and a cheering squad. The talent show was sponsored by the Cleveland Cavaliers and all the participants received a monetary gift. Additionally, Frank Ross, the author of the book “The Grand March, The Spirit of African-Americans,” spoke. He shared that the African American Folk dance is cultural, spiritual, and social. Ross then had a crowd of about 50 viewers participate in the grand march.
The viewers in attendance appeared to have an entertaining and educational afternoon. Please consider supporting The African American Cultural Gardens’ efforts.