Local organizations give back to the community on Juneteenth Day

Posted at 1:29 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 19:22:12-04

MILWAUKEE — All day, TMJ4 is celebrating Juneteenth Day. On this day in 1865, slaves in Galveston Texas learned they were free, two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Milwaukee is in its 49th year of celebrating the holiday. We're known for one of the largest celebrations in the country. And it's not just about the parade and festival.

It's been an unpredictable year for 15-year-old Raniyah Edwards since being crowned Miss Juneteenth.

"It's just been a year of change, for the better," said Edwards.

Others have noticed the change in eight-year-old Bailey Clemmons - Little Miss Juneteeth.

"Sometimes they say, 'Hi, can I take a picture with you' but they only sometimes notice me if I wear my sash," said Clemmons.

But as their reign comes to an end, even more changes for this year's Juneteenth Day celebration.

Like many summer events, it was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are awfully sad about that, " said LaTonya Lucas with the Pageant's Scholarship Committee, this would have marked the 49th celebration here in Milwaukee."

But Lucas says the pageant will go on this year, in a virtual contest.

"They will have to submit their talent via a video," said Lucas.

Lucas is on the scholarship committee for the pageant, where winners can get up to $1,500 in cash and prizes.

You can find information on how to sign up for the 2020 Juneteenth Pageant here.

"The purpose is to recognize the youth in the African American community and recognize their talents and service to their community," said Lucas.

This year, organizers with the Northcott Neighborhood House added a new competition: the first-ever Mister Juneteenth and Mister Juneteenth Junior.

"They need money for school just as much as the girls do," said Lucas. "So it's an opportunity to actually help fund the young men in our community."

Milwaukee Alderwoman Milele Coggs was the first Miss Juneteenth and Bailey's mom is also a previous winner.

Bailey used her gymnastics talent to help win the contest. She encourages other young girls to give it a try.

"I would tell them don't be afraid just do the best you can."

In addition to the scholarship money, Juneteenth gives back to the community with a life-saving blood donation drive Friday, June 19.

"We are having three conveniently located blood drives at Mt. Zion Assembly Healing Center, Marquette University Alumni Memorial Union and Early View Academy of Excellence in order to commemorate the recognition of the end of slavery and also Juneteenth is sickle cell awareness day, " said Michelle Waite with Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin.

This year, the goal is for 150 donors at three different locations with the help of the Versati Blood Center of Wisconsin. The effort also highlights the disproportionate impact of sickle cell anemia in the African American Community.

One and 13 African American babies are born with sickle cell.

So, despite the pandemic setback, efforts to give back are moving forward.

And the goal next year is to have a parade, pageant, and festival that celebrates 50 years of Juneteenth Day in Milwaukee.

"What we are doing is preparing for next year," said Lucas. "Making sure its bigger and better."

A big donation for the Juneteenth Day organizing committee. Karen and Andrew Kraus donated a thousand dollars to Northcott Neighborhood House in memory of Karen's mom, Dorothy Schmidt.

Dorothy worked Juneteenth Day every year, as a member of Northcott. She was very involved in the community.

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