June 19, 2020

Juneteenth Celebrated Around Indianapolis

Kayla Pitts, a Cathedral high school senior, speaks at a Juneteenth celebration at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Friday, June 19, 2020. - Eric Weddle/WFYI News

Kayla Pitts, a Cathedral high school senior, speaks at a Juneteenth celebration at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Friday, June 19, 2020.

Eric Weddle/WFYI News

Juneteenth was celebrated in various ways across the city today. A short march for peace ended at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park where public safety and elected officials offered visions of what Indianapolis must do next at this moment. 

The broad support for change, they said, means the time is now to speak honestly about inequalities and how to address them.

“To meet together on Juneteenth, to see so many people from different races, different religions, different groups, saying, ‘We stand with you in solidarity. We are pushing back. It is a new day. We won’t expect the norm.’ It means so much,” said U.S. Rep André Carson, a Democrat who represents Indiana's 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Indianapolis.

Dozens gathered at the park, at an event organized by Indianapolis fire and police officers and related union groups and associations. Speakers stood in front of the Landmark for Peace, the memorial sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

Kayla Pitts, a Cathedral high school senior, said everyone gathered must work together for a common cause. She called for laws to end police tactics that can led to excessive force

“For new laws to be made and enforced, we have to understand each other,” she told the crowd. ““It is important that we don’t contradict and compare the battles our counterparts are going through. For example, if I say black lives matter, don’t contradict my statement with all lives matter. Because all lives can’t matter until black lives matter.”

Former President Abraham Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, and it became effective the following Jan. 1. But it wasn’t enforced in many places until after the Civil War ended in April 1865. Word didn’t reach the last enslaved Black people until June 19 of that year, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to Galveston, Texas.

Most states, including Indiana, recognize Juneteenth, which is a blend of the words June and 19th, as a state holiday or day of recognition, like Flag Day. But in the wake of protests of Floyd's killing this year and against a backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic that has disproportionately harmed Black communities, more Americans — especially white Americans — are becoming familiar with the holiday and commemorating it.

Indy Lawyers for Black Lives and Marion University also held events Friday. The Juneteenth Freedom Festival was held on East 38th Street.

This month, following street demonstrations, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and IMPD Chief Randal Taylor agreed to some protesters’ demands for police reform and accountability, including changes to the policy for use of deadly force and to prohibit shooting into moving vehicles and from vehicles.

Both spoke at the park Friday.

“This is a movement and we are in a moment. And around the world our brothers and sisters are experiencing many of the same things we are,” Hogsett said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and Hogsett signed proclamations declaring June 19 as Juneteenth in the state and city.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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