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'Black History Is All History,' Lansing Community Celebrates Juneteenth

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Lansing Juneteenth Celebration
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The Lansing Juneteeth Committee spearheaded the effort in 2005 to officially designate Juneteenth a state holiday in Michigan.

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19 every year, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. 

The first formal celebration of Juneteeth in Lansing was in 1993. This year, in-person celebrations have been cancelled due to the pandemic, but Lansing’s Juneteenth Committee is sharing a public service announcement to spread awareness about the holiday and what it represents.

Marilyn Plummer is the Chairperson of the committee. She joined WKAR’s Sophia Saliby to talk about the holiday.

Interview Highlights

On This Year’s Public Service Announcement

Hopefully, in light of this pandemic, we can still reach a broad audience to share with the public at large that the Juneteenth Celebration Committee exists to make sure that the Lansing area and region know about the celebration of Juneteenth.

On The First Official Celebration of Juneteenth In Lansing

The very first celebration was small. It was quaint. It was held at our local church, Mask Memorial CME church, which we were all members of and hosted the very first celebration. It was an evening service, so it was a few hours on a Sunday after service.

On More Americans Becoming Aware Of Juneteenth

It's really opened the eyes and the vision of people to recognize that black history is all history. It's part of the inclusive history of the United States. But yet over the years, we've only been told about it in bits and pieces as part of a story, part of an exclusive part of history, separated and segregated. So, I think as we talked about Juneteenth today, it's becoming more mainstream.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: So in-person Juneteenth celebrations have been canceled this year due to the pandemic. I know you're sharing a public service announcement about the holiday online instead. Can you tell me about that?

Marilyn Plummer: This is our 27th year of the Lansing Juneteenth Commemorative Celebration, and we felt that a celebration in light of and during this pandemic still should be heard. So, we felt that a public awareness message would be helpful to share with those who would not know what Juneteenth is or represents.

And hopefully, in light of this pandemic, we can still reach a broad audience to share with the public at large that the Juneteenth Celebration Committee exists to make sure that the Lansing area and region know about the celebration of Juneteenth, especially here in Lansing.

Saliby: Your sister helped organize the first Juneteenth celebration in Lansing. What do you think has changed in those 27 years since the first gathering?

Plummer: Well, there's been a lot of change, and there's been slow progression of information in news. Again, we the state of Michigan, City of Lansing were not aware of Juneteenth. [It was] celebrated wholeheartedly in the south originating from Texas, but certainly a national celebration of sorts. Our challenge was to share with people what we were celebrating about.

So, the very first celebration was small. It was quaint. It was held at our local church, Mask Memorial CME church, which we were all members of and hosted the very first celebration. It was an evening service, so it was a few hours on a Sunday after service. I want to say that particular year may have even been like Father's Day.

Saliby: You were part of the effort to pass legislation in Michigan declaring Juneteenth as a state holiday about 15 years ago. Can you speak to the growing recognition of the holiday especially in recent years?

Plummer: So it was our pleasure, my pleasure especially, to go before the legislature with legislation that had been introduced in the Senate, that Juneteenth be a state of Michigan holiday. And that was certainly a local effort and an effort on behalf of our members of the legislature in the state of Michigan.

And we certainly had some input from the national organization, NJOF, which stands for the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, to spearhead the groundwork that led to the Michigan legislation which we're now actually hoping and advocating for working towards a national Juneteenth Day of Celebration.

Saliby: Certainly, Juneteenth as a holiday has been celebrated by communities for years, but I feel like it's really only becoming part of the national consciousness in recent years. Why do you think that is?

Plummer: I think it has a lot to do with our social awareness, our concerns and issues of social justice. It's really opened the eyes and the vision of people to recognize that black history is all history. It's part of the inclusive history of the United States. But yet over the years, we've only been told about it in bits and pieces as part of a story, part of an exclusive part of history and separated and segregated. So, I think as we talked about Juneteenth today, it's becoming more mainstream. It's recognizing, you know, certainly our history of our country, but today, it represents a lot.

Certainly, social justice issues, fairness issues, and that's something that we can all embrace regardless of, you know, what race, creed, culture. Everybody wants to be respected and feel a part of our community, our nation, and be represented as a full person to be recognized. What we say definitely is meaningful and being respectful of what we say and how it affects others that we live with or unite with or in our livelihood as a community.

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