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Community updates: Friday, June 19

Grand Rapidians celebrate Juneteenth with events, proclamations, reflections; Gov. Whitmer extends Michigan’s state of emergency through July 16.
Rosa Parks statue at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.

Rosa Parks statue at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids. /Lincoln Blues

Grand Rapidians celebrate Juneteenth with events, proclamations, reflections

Juneteenth, the nation’s holiday celebrating the end of legal slavery in America, was celebrated by city residents and leaders on Friday through events, proclamations, and reflections on its importance.

The June 19 holiday originates from the day in 1865 when the last remaining enslaved African-Americans in Texas were informed of the Emancipation Proclamation declaring them free.

Among Friday's celebration events were livestream event “Power to the People 616,” organized by area native Asian Horne to honor local African-American history, culture, unsung heroes, and more. Other events were the Unapologetically Black Cultural Festival at Martin Luther King Park, West Michigan Jewels of Africa’s Freedom Festival at Dickinson Buffer Park, and the Juneteenth Community Drive-By Parade, organized by Juneteenth GR and motivational speaker Denavvia Mojet.

The holiday was recognized in Grand Rapids through a proclamation signed by Mayor Bliss, which she read during a City Commission meeting on Tuesday.

As we work together as a community toward equity in housing, education, health care, policing, and the criminal justice system, let us honor all those who have lived and died in pursuit of racial justice,” Bliss said. “I hereby proclaim and recognize June 19, 2020, as Juneteenth in Grand Rapids and I urge all residents to become more aware of the importance of this celebration in American history and to continue to promote diversity, racial justice, equity, and inclusion in our city.”

Kent County also proclaimed Friday as Juneteenth, with Kent County commissioners sharing reflections online.

More Juneteenth celebration events are planned on Saturday, including Culture Freedom: A Juneteenth Festival at Martin Luther King Park from 11am-3pm and a celebration at Garfield Park from 3-7pm.


Gov. Whitmer extends Michigan’s state of emergency through July 16

Gov. Whitmer signed an executive order on Thursday extending Michigan’s state of emergency declaration related to COVID-19 through July 16.

The state of emergency extension enables the governor to continue issuing executive orders that have limited economic and social activities in the past few months, such as the now-lifted “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order and capacity restrictions – if she deems them appropriate.

“The aggressive measures we took at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have worked to flatten the curve, but there is still more to be done to prevent a second wave,” Whitmer said. “We owe it to the heroes on the front lines to keep doing our part by wearing a mask when in public and practicing social distancing.”

“Now is not the time to get complacent. We must continue to stay vigilant and flexible in order to reduce the chance of a second wave.”

Whitmer’s original state of emergency declaration in response to the pandemic was issued on March 10. The “Stay Safe, Stay Home,” which had shut down nonessential businesses and social activities for much of the last few months, was lifted on June 1.

More details about Whitmer’s latest state of emergency extension is available on the Executive Orders page on her official website.


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