Saturday, June 14th was a beautiful day so we drove out to Oberlin to table at their annual Juneteenth Festival.
Juneteenth is a day to be celebrated because it was on June 19, 1865 that the last enslaved people in Texas were freed two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863 thus Juneteenth symbolizes the end of slavery and the beginning of freedom.
On June 8, 2004 the Oberlin City Council passed a resolution establishing Juneteenth as an officially recognized day of celebration which is to take place on the Saturday that falls between the 13th and the 19th of June each year.
As we were setting up our table, a man named David Ashenhurst walked up to tell us how much he admires Margaret W. Wong and we had an ongoing conversation throughout the day. As it turned out, Mr. Ashenhurst was on the Oberlin City Council in 2008 when a resolution of non-cooperation with federal immigration authorities was passed after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)and raided a local restaurant. Mr. Ashenhurst told us that the City Council decided to stand with 31 of the largest police departments in the country and pass this resolution which would enable all Oberlin residents to seek help from police, fire departments, and social services without fear of being turned over to immigration officials.
The ceremonies started at 10am with the singing of the National Anthem and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Oberlin Juneteenth Resolution. Throughout the day we were entertained by such groups as the Agape Choir, the Christian Missionary Alliance Choir, African Royalty Dancers, Sugar Ray Ballard R & B and a musician named Utah Witherspoon playing Jazz. There was also a parade at noon, a motorcycle show, a rock painting contest, a Rock-Paper-Scissors contest, drawings for bicycles, and a tire obstacle course to name only a few of the activities which went on until 5:30pm.
As we tabled a lot of very nice people approached us including:
***a local producer named Betty Haliburton who was doing a documentary about Juneteenth for the local cable channel who took a photograph of our booth and our information as well
***Janet Haar who used to work with COSE in Cleveland and knew Ms. Wong from that. Ms. Haar is currently involved with Oberlin Business Partners which is like their chamber of commerce
***a young student who knew someone who might need an Artist Visa
***Scott Broadwell, the Oberlin City Council President who stopped by to say hello to us
***a person named Mary Ann Brown (maiden name Gresh) whose grandparents both immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia and passed through Ellis Island but at different times in different years. Ms. Gresh was sorry that her grandmother’s immigration records were destroyed in the fire at Ellis Island.
***Marcus Madison, a City Councilman from Elyria who is now running for Ohio State Senate. We had met Councilman Madison a couple of months ago at Lorain College and he remembered us.
***a person who works for an insurance company who took our information because he/she often deals with foreign born people.
***a person who took our information because eventually she might need some assistance in helping family members in Africa immigrate to the United States
***Linda M. Rothacker from the Oberlin Feminist Forum who has her own radio show and would like to have Ms. Wong on as a guest.
***a local paramedic named Edward who is from Cleveland and either met Ms. Wong or met people who met her when she lived or worked near West Avenue in Cleveland
All told there were at least 50 vendors here today from such diverse groups/organizations as Rust United Methodist Church, Oberlin Kids Collaborative, Oberlin-African Genealogy and History Group (Mr. Ashenhurst was volunteering with them), American Legion Post 656, Oberlin Heritage Group, League of Women Voters, and Oberlin Area National Organization for Women.
Another fine person that we got to meet was Mr. Robert Smith from the Zion Community Development Corporation who was tabling right next to us and offered to watch our booth if we needed to take a break.
As we were leaving, we stopped to say good-bye to Mr. Ashenhurst who also served on the Board of the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union and has worked with the Lake County Board of Mental Health. Mr. Ashenhurst thought that it was great that we were here at Juneteenth and not only offered to keep us posted on noteworthy events in Oberlin but also in Chicago where he has connections and we have an office.
It is people like him that make journeying to out of the way events so worthwhile.