‘Harambe Juneteenth Celebration’ in Bristol, Virginia bringing community members together

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BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL)- Saturday, a gathering at the Cumberland Square Park in Bristol called the ‘Harambe Juneteenth Celebration’ was held not only in response to police brutality, but also to commemorate June 19, which celebrates the freeing of all slaves in 1865.

Rallies and marches have been prominent around the world as well as in the Tri-Cities.

Around a hundred people gathered with their families to listen to speakers and music to commemorate the holiday celebrated by the black community.

“My kids and everyone on my team have children that are in the Bristol Virginia Public School System, and we want to see change for Bristol,” said Kiyanna Court, the Future Black Leaders Coalition Founder. “So, we don’t want anything that’s going on across the world to get here.”

Marches and protests continue in the Tri-Cities as many communities band together to share their beliefs regarding racism and police brutality that’s been a hot topic in recent weeks.

“We put the ‘harambe’ on there because ‘harambe’ means for everyone to gather, not just for black people to gather, but for everyone to gather,” said Court.

The Juneteenth celebrations have helped to encourage educating community members about black history.

“When I was in school, I didn’t know about Juneteenth, but now that I know about it, I’m happy we are celebrating,” said Kay Pace, a Bristol, Tennessee resident at the event.

Pace graduated in 1970 from Bristol Tennessee High School and said she’s seen what can happen when people ask for change.

“We integrated when I was in seventh grade,” she said. “I went to the eighth, and it was integrated. It was different, but we got along well.”

Juneteenth is a celebration of the abolishment of slavery, but still today, many say there’s still a long way to go.

“I was in third grade when I first experienced racism here in Bristol, and I want my kids to be comfortable in the skin they’re in,” said Court.

A Future Black Leaders Coalition member told News Channel 11 that she believes the events can help her daughter grow.

“It’s very important for my daughter to be here,” said Keshhia Rese. “I’ve been living in Bristol, Virginia for 28 years, and I have never experienced anything like this. So, I’m excited she can experience this at 8.”

Their voices are being heard by city leaders, explained Bristol, Virginia Mayor Neal Osborne.

“I think it’s important to show that they have the ear of the people who are running the city and running Bristol, Tennessee as well,” Osborne said. “So, I think it’s important for us to be here and show that we support their movement.”

Sunday’s event wrapped up at 8 p.m. and was sponsored by the Future Black Leaders Coalition.

Just this week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he intends to mark Juneteenth as a permanent paid state holiday.

Legislation making it a state holiday is expected to come soon to the General Assembly.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee also showed his support for the day this week during a news briefing and by signing a proclamation Friday.

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