By Tonya Kelly, with contribution by Okon Ekpenyong
The first thing one will notice about Council Member, Meredith Lawson-Rowe, is her sense of fashion. She is captivating and highly coordinated from head to toe. Nevertheless, behind that smile and various stylists’ glasses is a woman who knows how to get things done. Meredith Lawson-Rowe, who currently serves on the Reynoldsburg city council representing Ward 4, is one of the minds behind the 3rd annual Juneteenth celebration in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
Meredith Lawson-Rowe is one of four African Americans on the Reynoldsburg City Council; the other three are Council President Angie Jenkins, Shanette Strickland, and Stacie Baker. “We were on the right side of history celebrating Juneteenth before it had become a national holiday,” Reynoldsburg Councilmember Meredith Lawson-Rowe said.
June 19, also known as Celebration Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, or simply Juneteenth Day, marked the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in 1865. On June 19, 2021, President Biden signed June 19 as a national Independence Day holiday, making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
The council member caught up with The New Americans Magazine to provide a breakdown of all of the festivities surrounding the 3rd annual Reynoldsburg Juneteenth celebration, which will take place at Huber Park, right around the corner from Reynoldsburg YMCA.
“We kicked things off on Friday at the YMCA, having a fashion show about the Branches of excellent talent. It is rooted in our legacy, so we thought how fitting it is to showcase our young people bringing branches of excellence into our third annual celebration. It is building the momentum for the initial celebration on Saturday.”
Saturday’s event will kick off at 10 am, and it will be the 5k unity in the community walk/run. It will make the 3rd annual Juneteenth an afternoon to remember. We will have small businesses and health-related healthcare-related agencies offering health screenings. We will also have some resource-related organizations providing information for the community. The animal outreach program of the Columbus Zoo and aquarium will be around from 1 pm to give the families, especially the children, a reason to smile. The event will conclude at 4 pm, and legendary band colo-Boration Poly Genre band, featuring Priscilla Woodson, will provide live entertainment.
“We are thrilled that the new American community is participating and celebrating Juneteenth Holiday with us because this celebration allows all Americans to embrace our authentic experience fully,” Meredith Lawson-Rowe said. The councilmember emphasized that Juneteenth is more than a black culture. “Until Americans embrace all cultures and celebrations on holidays, we are not being our authentic selves and leaning into ourselves. So having the new American community celebrate with us is beautiful because we are more alike than we are different. Although others would have us believe differently, we must remember that we are more alike than different once again,”.
Bhuwan Pyakurel, the first Nepali Bhutanese to serve on the council and a member of the new American community, is an example of Reynoldsburg’s cultural sensitivity and welcoming nature.
Other Juneteenth celebrations throughout the city:
Throughout Central Ohio, they will be other Juneteenth celebrations at various locations. At Genoa Park by Scioto Mile, the festival will take place on June 18 and 19th from Noon to 11 pm. On June 19, from 1 pm to 7:30 pm, the Grange Insurance Audubon Center in Columbus, Ohio, will also have its celebration. By 9:30 pm on June 18, they will be Juneteenth fireworks presented by Maroon Arts Group near Columbus State Community College campus. Lastly, from 4 pm to 9 pm at the Phenix Banquet Center, the Columbus Juneteenth Community Festival continues.
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