GR’s Juneteenth celebration looks for hope, change

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids, like most of the nation, has been roiling following the death of George Floyd with protest both peaceful and impassioned.

For many, that makes this Juneteenth and especially important time to remember the legacy of slavery and the resilience of the Black population.

Friday afternoon in Dickinson Park on the city’s Southeast Side, there was dancing and music as well as education and presentations by the people in positions of power about what needs to happen.

City Manager Mark Washington read the city proclamation from Mayor Rosalynn Bliss that recognize Juneteenth as a city celebration.

“What happened in Minneapolis to George Floyd was only a reawakening for our country, for our community of the progress that we have made and the progress that we still have so far to go,” Washington said.

Grand Rapid Police Chief Eric Payne promised change and quoted poet Maya Angelou.

“Do the best with what you know, when you know better, do better and that’s what we’re looking to do in the city of Grand Rapids,” Payne said.

Brandon Davis, the city’s new director of oversight and public accountability, also said change is coming.

“It’s time for us to make those needed changes in our system,” Davis said.

Nuumo Taalib El Amin, a professor, business consultant and expert regarding the history of the Egyptian valley, has devoted his life to teaching African American culture and history. He gave the introduction that kicked off the celebration.

“We’re taught that this is the greatest country in the world, we’re taught that we’re number one at everything, but we don’t tell people we’re number one in racism and oppression,” El Amin told News 8. “Juneteenth shows that even in spite of all that has occurred to people of African descent, most of us still want to be a part of this thing called America.”

He said that the division and injustice are real and remain, he sees hope in the unrest that has resulted following the revelation of police brutality against people of color.

“Most of the people that I saw in the pictures that were on TV and the web, looked like 75-80% were of European ancestry,” he said. “Young people, the next generation, I’m optimistic that they can make change, if allowed.”