A weekend event to celebrate the emancipation of slaves in America will be a time for local residents to commemorate the positive contributions of African-Americans, said Stephanie Coleman-Marks, a member of a local African-American women's group.
"The news in the paper last night was very depressing," she said. "We want to do positive things."
The "depressing news" she referred to were news reports that showed gunfire was the number one cause of death among black teen males in the United States between 1979 and 1989.
Coleman-Marks suggests local residents can learn more about the positive aspects of African-American culture Saturday in Lawrence's first ``Juneteenth'' celebration.
Although the local celebration is Saturday, Juneteenth celebrations typically are held nationwide on June 19 the date in 1865 when the last slave state in the union, Texas, freed its slaves after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
"WE'RE celebrating it on the thirteenth, because there's a lot of activities (on June 19) in other communities," Coleman-Marks said, adding that she didn't want this weekend's event to compete with events in surrrounding communities, including Leavenworth, Kansas City and Topeka.
The local event is being sponsored by the Integral Sisters in Society, a local African-American women's group of which Coleman-Marks is a member.
Visitors to the event can expect the scent of barbecue food and sounds of reggae music to fill the air over Clinton Park, Fifth and Illinois, where the event is to be held.
Celebrants also can expect to find vendors selling anything from jewelry to dolls that might fit in with the day's theme.
Coleman-Marks said the location is special to African-Americans because the neighborhoods surrounding the park were known as "Little Harlem" in the 1960s and the early 1970s because of the concentration of African-Americans.
TODAY THE park is a gathering spot for African-Americans, Coleman-Marks said.
However this celebration isn't just for African-Americans, she said. Coleman-Marks said she hopes the event will lure residents out of their cultural isolation.
"What I want to do is pull people out of their houses . . .'' and let them know African-Americans are in the Lawrence community.
She also wants to emphasize that no alcohol will be sold or permitted at Juneteenth, which she characterizes as a family picnic.
Activities will run from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. The rain date is June 20.