LIMA — Juneteenth may have lacked the crowds, but organizers aimed to keep the energy going in honor of the national holiday during a small gathering at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center Park held early Friday evening.
“We can’t celebrate it, but we can still honor it because we still need to honor Juneteenth and what it’s for,” event organizer Si’Kiyha Matthews said.
The original Juneteenth event organizers had decided to cancel due to state coronavirus restrictions back in the spring, but Matthews and a few local residents had called for the event and a protest anyway due to the importance of the national holiday.
The Friday event had gathered roughly 25 people for a small community gathering early in the evening. By 6 p.m., however, more and more young people had gathered together for a small celebration in the park.
Emily Hedrick had decided to go to the event to potentially gather some voter registrations. Hedrick said she had attended earlier protests, and she said she is starting to recognize the importance of a political voice during local elections.
“Its become more and more clear to me how local policy and local elections really matter,” Hedrick said.
She and Joe Wyse had come prepped with clipboards and registration forms.
Wyse said he enjoyed just getting to come and talk to some of his fellow community members and promote good conversation.
For Lima resident Markelus K. Carter, the event was a little more personal. With more people questioning police issues more than ever, Carter said he’s hoping that more attention can be paid to potential past abuses. His father, also named Markelus Carter, had been been convicted of aggravated murder back in 2014.
Carter said there’s still a lot of systemic racism, but recent Black Lives Matters protests have started getting people to speak up more against unfair abuse. The death of George Floyd, especially, he said, acted as a graphic wake-up call.
“More people are recognizing the issues of policing,” Carter said. “They never would have fathomed it if the message was just through words.”
Seeing action in Lima has also given him some hope that help could be there for his father, who he says is innocent, down the road.
“I’ve always been a little sad for Lima. It’s not like these things can’t be done,” he said in reference to the gathering. “They have them in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland. Some things like this can crystallize (political action) in the community.”
“I’m happy Lima can a part of (Juneteenth),” event organizer and Lima Senior High School alumni Makayla Jones said. “I’m glad people of all races can come out without animosity. With what we’re doing, we can also give back to the community, and I’m glad to be out here to to be positive.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.