Usually at this time of year we are well into the season of attending large events where we reach out with our informational booth and literature to educate the public on our services. For example, Fort Wayne Housing Authority has, for some years held an annual event celebrating Father’s Day where we usually attend and have a booth. In 2018 that event became Strong Family Day but, despite the name change, the idea remained the same: promoting family strength and unity and supporting the importance of fathers in those families. We also used to regularly attend the event that Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation has held at Weisser Park Youth Center in collaboration with WANE-TV 15 to celebrate Juneteenth. Both of these events have been put on hold this year due to COVID-19 social distancing concerns.
Juneteenth, or the nineteenth of June is the day in the United States commemorating the anniversary of the end of slavery. That was the day in 1865 that Texans, particularly African-American Texans, learned that slavery in the United States had been abolished. Even though President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 (that freed the slaves in the Confederate states on January 1, 1863), the slaves in Texas did not learn the news until Union troops arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865. That day, more than two years after the official Proclamation took effect, Union General Gordon Granger read aloud the announcement to a joyous crowd, and June 19th became known as “Juneteenth,” the day that many thousands of people in bondage found out that they were, in fact, free.
Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday in 1980, and since then almost all the states have gotten on board. Indiana became the 34th to make it official in 2010. Today, forty-six of the 50 United States recognize Juneteenth as either a state holiday or a day of observance. The four states that do not recognize Juneteenth are Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana.
Even though we are not celebrating either Juneteenth or Father’s Day in the usual way, both of these events are still very relevant in 2020 as we witness, both on the national and local levels, demonstrations demanding an end to racism and a rethinking of our country’s authoritarian approach to law enforcement. The word ‘authoritarian’ is often used to mean a strict, paternalistic or father-like approach to discipline. While fathers do often take the strong hand in raising children, they can also provide a softer side to the resolution of conflicts by conciliating or bringing peace to a situation. An example of that can be seen here in Fort Wayne in our Crisis Intervention Team officers who are specially trained to lower the level of agitation in crisis situations.
I think we all know how important it is for children to have a strong family and a father-figure to guide, support and encourage them as they make their way through an often challenging world. It is also important for them to be treated with dignity, respect, a kind heart and a listening ear. Here at the trustee’s office we often see the harm it does to people to be without such family support. Whether a child or an adult, we can all use a father-figure at times in our life, and that person can be both gentle and strong. In fact, it is often the gentlest man that turns out to be the strongest.
In some breaking news, WANE-TV has announced that there will, in fact, be a Juneteenth celebration on Friday June 19th from 11AM to 2PM downtown at Keller Williams Realty in the back courtyard and pavilion area off 930 South Calhoun Street. There will be food, drink and live music, and KWR CEO Caleb Ellington says “We’re going to have free masks available for people so when they get here they can put them on and be responsible with social distancing.” The event is free, and anyone can attend.
Have a Happy Juneteenth / Father’s Day this weekend, and stay safe.