VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — Communities in KELOLAND are celebrating Juneteenth. It’s a holiday highlighting a major moment in American history: the end of slavery.
The name of the holiday refers to June 19th, 1865 when the last group of enslaved African Americans learned they were free.
A proclamation at Monday’s City Council meeting declared Friday as Juneteenth Freedom Day in Vermillion.
On Friday, an event in town gave people a way to get involved.
James Purdy doesn’t consider himself much of a drawer, but that didn’t stop him from picking up a piece of chalk in downtown Vermillion Friday.
“So I decided to stick to words,” James Purdy said.
It’s called Chalk the Block, one way for the community to get involved on Juneteenth.
Purdy admits he hasn’t always been familiar with the day.
“Sadly, I think, along with a lot of people, I grew up here in South Dakota and I really don’t remember learning much about Juneteenth in school, so I also came down here to learn from others that might be here,” Purdy said.
Shannon Petree and her four-year-old daughter worked together on a message that says “Courage. Speak up if you think something is wrong.”
“I kind of think that that might be part of what’s wrong with society is we see things, but we don’t stop whether it’s a racist comment or an action taken against somebody,” Shannon Petree said.
It didn’t take long for parts of the sidewalk to fill up with phrases and pictures promoting solidarity and fighting injustice.
“This is really special and I think it’s a really cool moment for the community and I encourage everyone to make sure you’re staying informed and talking about things that need to be talked about and having those not comfortable conversations and really pushing yourself. And I think a lot of people here are doing that,” Malika Glover said.
While this chalk is only temporary, Purdy hopes to see many more Juneteenth celebrations in the future.
“I hope it’s something that we’ll continue to put a lot of thought behind and celebrate and discuss for every year from here on out,” Purdy said.
This week, Governor Kristi Noem proclaimed Friday as Juneteenth Day in South Dakota.