Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., is a holiday long celebrated in America — but one that has gained new national attention, as the country reckons with George Floyd’s death.
Friday afternoon, people in Morgantown gathered for a cookout outside of the Mountainlair to celebrate the historical day. Volunteers served food, while music played, in an effort to bring the community together. The festivities will continue from 1:30-8:30 p.m. today.
Hawa Diawara, coordinator of the cookout, said her goal was to enlighten attendees about the significance Juneteenth holds.
“This is something that happened in America and was victorious for us,” Diawara said. “For us to be able to celebrate that with the community and sharing our history and knowledge about black history … it brings more unity; that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Diawara said it’s an opportunity for the community to “step out of their comfort zone” and learn about history that some people might not know.
“We’re aiming for a community where we’re all unified, loved, respected and accepted by one another,” she said. “At the end of the day, we’re all living here together, so we might as well do the best that we can to live with each other as a community.”
“I play for West Virginia University and just seeing things that are going on in Morgantown [in relation to what has been going on in the U.S.] gives me faith in the fact that people here are willing to understand and listen,” said volunteer Kayza Massey, who is a member of the women’s soccer team. “Because we are a university town, we can lead by example and that is what we’re doing today.”
Attendee Reinaldo Colon, 15, said it is important for him to be a part of this historical time because of his passion for change in the world.
“Knowing I have my brothers and sisters here makes me feel whole,” he said.
Massey said the division of the world has nothing to do with skin color, and it is important to stand up for what you believe in.
“If you don’t stand for something, then you’re going to fall for anything,” she said. “This is not white versus black, this is racists against non-racists.”
Being able to showcase history, according to Diawara, is important. Letting others into one’s culture can give a deeper understanding and eliminate hate.
“It all comes down to not knowing” and Diawara wants to be part of that change.
“We need to learn to celebrate each other,” she said. “When you allow someone to walk in your shoes, to get to know your culture, it opens their eyes to a whole different world. That can dismantle discrimination, the ideal of hate and of racism.
“This is about sharing that love and community and sense of hope that one day we can all live in a world where we’re all accepted for who we are as individuals.
“We’re going in the right direction towards bettering the world we want to see.”