Juneteenth events in Butler County: Hamilton, Middletown, Miami to host festivities this week

Butler County celebrations to commemorate when slavery universally ended in U.S. to take place Saturday.

People in Hamilton and Middletown will host first-ever Juneteenth celebrations Saturday, observing the day — June 19, 1865 — slavery universally ended across the country, almost 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

And Miami University for a second year is closing early, at 2 p.m. on Friday so people can attend a “Teach-In,” and watch a pre-recorded lecture by Dr. Rodney Coates about the day in history that will be available to all for free on the Internet. After the lecture, Coates will host an in-person question-and-answer session for the Miami community from 3:15 to 4 p.m.

“The Juneteenth celebration is definitely one for everyone,” said Candice White, organizer of the event in Hamilton, which will happen from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Booker T. Washington Community Center, 1140 S. Front St. There will be free hot dogs and juice for children from noon to 2 p.m., plus food trucks with soul food, barbecue, fried pies, a bouncy house for the children, kickball tournament for the adults. There also will be a business expo and community networking, featuring several community organizations that can help people with jobs and other needs.

“It’s going to be a good time,” said White, the mother of Deion Oatis, who at age 11 last year asked Hamilton to declare Juneteenth an ongoing holiday. The city agreed.

Juneteenth is a combination of June and 19th, the day slaves in Texas in 1865 learned slavery no longer was legal in the country, stirring impromptu celebrations.

Dr. Quinton Moss will give a history speech around 2 p.m. about Juneteenth.

Here are details about the other events:

“Middletown’s Juneteenth First Annual Cookout” will happen from noon to 7 p.m. behind the Robert “Sonny” Hill Jr. Community Center at 800 Lafayette Ave. It will feature “conversations with our ancestors” and health screenings held inside community center from 3 to 5 p.m. There also will be a very brief celebration and remembrance immediately afterward to honor those lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Andre Harris will speak about “Health Disparities and African-Americans.”

New Era Baptist Church in Middletown (1120 Yankee Road) will host what it calls the first event leading up to its 100th anniversary from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday with a cookout featuring hot dogs and hamburgers, music, door prizes and crafts. People are encouraged to wear T-shirts with Black Lives Matter or Juneteenth themes, “or your favorite African attire.”

At Miami, Dr. Coates’ lecture will be released at 2 p.m. on Miami’s YouTube channel, Miami University - YouTube, and the university’s Juneteenth webpage, Juneteenth | Diversity and Inclusion - Miami University (miamioh.edu). It is free for anyone to watch. But the lecture afterward, available only to the university community, and requires registration.

Last year, when Miami University President Gregory P. Crawford closed the university at 2 p.m., to commemorate Juneteenth, Miami announced: “We should all reflect and contemplate the importance of this day in U.S. history, and how much further we must go to bring about justice and equality for all.”

Juneteenth is becoming more of a holiday locally and around the country. Starting this year, it is an official paid holiday for employees of Franklin County, Ohio, replacing Columbus Day.

White said she hadn’t even heard of of Juneteenth herself until about five years ago, “And I spoke with someone just yesterday who didn’t know what Juneteenth was, and he’s an African-American mature male.”

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