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Juneteenth: Community members say it’s a day to celebrate culture, history and progress

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FORT WAYNE Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - Juneteenth was celebrated across the country Friday, and community members in Fort Wayne decided to celebrate almost all day across the city.  

Juneteenth marks the day when the last U.S. slaves learned the Civil War was over, and they were free. This year, several community leaders and organizations decided to make it an all-day event together.  

"The African American young people came together and said, we need to celebrate Juneteenth,” Zynette Paige has been organizing Juneteenth celebrations for the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation for over 15 years. “Not only do we need to celebrate Juneteenth, we need to understand what Juneteenth is about.” 

There were several events throughout the day, and organizers decided to make sure they each linked together.  

"The reason we decided to pair is because, at the end of the day, Juneteenth is about togetherness,” Courtney Lewis, organizer of the Foster Park event, said. “We were just five strangers that got together, so far that to have this kind of turn out...this was great.” 

The people at the Foster Park event marched to the next Juneteenth celebration at The Health Hut Wellness Center, each location with food, music, and Juneteenth educational resources.  

While there are protests happening across the world, even here in downtown Fort Wayne, for Black Lives Matter, organizers say it was even more important to celebrate their history this year.  

“Hopefully this is a sign of change but there’s so much more to address other than just rallies and marches.” Owner of The Health Hut, Dave Thomas, said. “It is a day of celebration, and it is a day of progress and it is a day of just coming together as a community to fight for what's right, what's truth, and what's just.” 

Karli VanCleave

Karli VanCleave is a multimedia journalist at WPTA for the evening newscast. Karli is a Fort Wayne native and Indiana University Bloomington graduate.
Feel free to connect with her on Facebook (@KarliVanCleaveNews) and Twitter (@Karli_VanCleave), or if you have a story idea send her an email at

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