Juneteenth an opportunity to celebrate together

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The second annual Juneteenth celebration in Ashland is in the final moments of preparations.

The event is put on through a partnership with Ashland for Change and the Boyd/Greenup County chapter of the NAACP. Community will gather in Central Park Sunday from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Audra Thomas, Vice President of Ashland for Change, shared that planning and preparations have gone relatively smoothly and the final meeting Friday would iron out last minute details.

The event has been overwhelmingly supported by the community and local businesses. So much so that they had to stop taking sponsorships a week early, said Thomas.

Thomas specifically noted the city’s help in getting a special events permit and Ashland Police for sending two officers for security free of charge as an in-kind donations.

Miss Kentucky Faith Fountain will be the emcee for the event. Corduroy Brown and JD Thomas with Building Blocks are two local Black musicians that are set to be a part of the lineup.

Thomas said last year featured mostly Black artists in the soul, R&B, funk, southern rock and gospel genres. This year, they are adding to the variety. The showcase is still on Black entertainers, but mix up the genres.

“Black people and the Black community is not a monolith,” said Thomas. “It’s not always soul music. It’s not always rap music. We have some country. We have some pop rock. It’s going to be an eclectic and diverse selection of entertainment.”

Thomas added that the goal was to highlight the community as a whole. They will vary the entertainment each year.

The event will begin with sharing about what Juneteenth is, and its importance. Juneteenth is the celebration of the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans. It is also a celebration of culture.

“Ashland has a lot of history when it comes to the Black community,” said Thomas. “There’s a lot of history, there’s a lot of tradition.”

Thomas notes the work of Darrell Smith and Bernice Henry and the Ashland Black History Museum to revive the history of the Black community in Ashland. Thomas added that Ashland for Change is seeking that same goal.

“We want to not only be a source for people when they have a problem with racism or when they have questions about diversity training or how to be inclusive in their classroom or in their household,” said Thomas. “We also want to be an avenue where we celebrate Black history, Black community and make sure we highlight some of these local entertainers we have.”

The event is a celebration of the Black community and culture, but it is in no way limited to only the Black community. The primary topic of the event will be mental health, said Thomas. Two speakers will speak on mental health in general and more specifically mental health in the Black community.

Thomas notes the rise in the discussion and honesty surrounding mental health in communities, social media and beyond.

“Everyone wants to make sure mental health is taken seriously and I think that’s something everyone experiences and everyone can kind of form a bond about,” said Thomas. “No matter your race, not matter what background you’re from you can come to Juneteenth and realize, people of all shapes, sizes, background are experiencing these issues and it’s OK to talk about those issues.”

The focus for the second annual Juneteenth celebration in Ashland is all about wellness and health. Thomas said no matter one’s race, whether Asian, Black, Hispanic, white, everyone needs a healthy balance in life.

The celebration will have local food and vendors. Fat Boy Q is one slated for the event. The team will have masks and hand sanitizer available for those who wish to protect themselves in that way.

Thomas sees the event as an opportunity to come together and celebrate rather than dwell on the differences among the community.

“There’s been so much racial tension that past couple of years,” said Thomas. “We just want to show the community that we can all be in this together and it doesn’t always have to be hard times or sad time. We can come together and celebrate no matter what your race is.”

Thomas’ hope is that people go away having enjoyed themselves and learned a lot.

“Our community it diverse,” said Thomas. “But our differences shouldn’t keep us apart. The group is trying to establish that common ground. We all have the same issues and we all like to celebrate, so we might as well do it together.”

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