Young, black Americans bring new energy to Juneteenth

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Deja Young and Adreiana Wright are 22 and 23 years old, respectively, and didn’t learn about Juneteenth until a few years ago. They recently started their own business, making masks, t-shirts and other merchandise with a focus on COVID-19 and frontline workers.

The events following George Floyd’s death inspired them to create other designs that promote Black Lives Matter and Juneteenth. 

“So many other people are now supporting us on that alone, and we get to talk more about our culture and get it out,” Young explained.

The young women showed off their recently designed merchandise from their home workspace where they take mostly custom orders through Facebook. They hope to eventually have their own boutique but see this as an opportunity to share the celebration of Juneteenth.

Trinity Posey also lives in Kalamazoo County, and has been using her talent for public speaking to energize more people in the Black Lives Matter movement.

She brings her own unique perspective, having grown up mostly around white people, graduating from Portage Northern High School and getting ready to start her second year at New York University. She had to teach herself about Juneteenth since it’s not part of most school curriculums but has noticed more people paying attention now.

“I know a lot of these protests (in Kalamazoo) have been somber and powerful, but I think Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom. It’s something that a lot of people of color, specifically black Americans, don’t often feel on the Fourth of July. I think this is a special occasion where we can come together and celebrate this freedom that we are still fighting for,” she said.

She also hopes that people of other races will continue to ask questions and learn new ways to fight racism.

“I just encourage everyone to really sit with all those feelings that you’ve been taught to feel when it comes to your relationship with race and people of different races. It’s unlearning all of those things that a system has taught us,” Posey explained.

Like others who have been protesting for equal rights, she doesn’t want this to be “just another hashtag” until another case like George Floyd’s makes headlines and hopes the momentum will keep moving forward.  

Wright and Young said their families are helping to put on a Juneteenth event this year, for the first time. It will last from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 824 North Street in Kalamazoo.

There are other events throughout the weekend in Kalamazoo, including a mural painting effort on Rose Street from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A list of other Juneteenth events:

  • #JusticeForCornelius protest in Kalamazoo on Saturday.
  • Kalamazoo Valley Museum and Soul Artistry LLC to host a virtual celebration of Juneteenth from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on their Facebook pages.
  • Voter registration Block Parties and March for Justice from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, which will start at Western Michigan University’s flag poles and end at Bronson Park
  • Vine Neighborhood Association Juneteenth Block Party and Public Mural Release from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday at 814 S Westnedge Avenue in Kalamazoo
  • Open Mic at Bronson Park from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.