Although I am sure that Mr. Griffin had other assignments that evening, I was disappointed by his report in Saturday’s Hickory Daily Record about Friday’s Juneteenth event at the Justice Center in Newton. Had he been able to stay longer, he may have had a different review of what was a powerful and poignant commemoration of America’s “second independence day.”
Having taught English, I recognize the power of words and perspective. Permit me, then, to rewrite a few paragraphs of the article as I saw it:
Nearly 80 racially and socially diverse adults and children, each wearing a face mask and each socially distancing, struggled to stand in the shadow of the Catawba County Justice Center early Friday evening. The group congregated from throughout the county in commemoration of America’s “second independence day.” Event organizers, UNC-CH senior Darian Abernathy, and Gardner-Webb senior Kaleb Hewitt opened the “inspirational and educational program” with a call and response of celebration and reflection.
Following an invocation, Toni Abernathy, an educator and Public Programs Coordinator with the Catawba Science Center, gave a brief history of the significance of Juneteenth. Because Americans today observe life-changing events in real time, it is hard to imagine that for two and one-half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, persons of African descent in Texas had not received word of their liberation and had continued to labor as slaves.
Ms. Darian Abernathy made an impassioned plea for justice and equity in health, education, and employment for all Americans. She concluded by reading the names of numerous persons whose deaths resulted from discrimination and misuse of power. Mr. Hewitt emphasized the importance of listening to those from diverse backgrounds in order to build understanding. He called out the children present, challenging them to work hard, explore history, and become part of a new movement to bring about fairness and justice for all Americans and told them that “movement was beginning on the steps of our Catawba County Courthouse” Friday night.
It was a long day for Mr. Griffin and the peace enforcement officers of our community. I had seen him and them at the Peace Pole dedication in Longview Friday morning. These two powerful events in one day show that there is a conscious desire in our county for hope, justice, and reconciliation.
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