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Western Michigan Congregation Hosts Community Juneteenth Celebrations

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Western Michigan Congregation Hosts Community Juneteenth Celebrations
Children paint at the Juneteenth celebration in Wyoming, Mich.

As a member of the cultural enrichment committee for the city of Wyoming, Mich., Dana Knight was looking for a place for the city to host its annual Juneteenth celebration.

She ended up finding a venue—and her new home church—in the same place: Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Wyoming.

For the past two years, Calvary CRC has hosted the city’s Juneteenth observance, which commemorates the freeing of enslaved people in the state of Texas on June 19, 1865. Juneteenth became a U.S. federal holiday in 2021.

Knight was struggling to look for a place that would host the event last year. After not being able to find any businesses owned by Black people in Wyoming that would be willing to host, she began to seek out churches who might fit the bill. She called four different churches, including Calvary, which is a majority-white congregation.

“(They) said yes, automatically, with no restrictions or anything,” Knight said.

Knight said she was impressed by Calvary’s outreach to the Wyoming community. She also took notice when she saw on the church’s website a statement in response to the death of George Floyd in May 2020, where the church acknowledged that racism is a sin and that “any thought, word, action, or system that oppresses one people group, to the advantage of another, is both sinful and unjust.”

The focus of Wyoming’s Juneteenth observance is twofold, Knight said.

“It was to educate people on what Juneteenth is, but also that our fight (as Black people) is still alive, with us trying to be recognized as human beings and have freedom for self-determination,” she said.

This year, Knight added vendors to the event, with an emphasis on including Black-owned businesses.

Some church members volunteered to assist with the observance, and Knight says she wants to hold the event again next year at Calvary.

“It was the perfect space for us to do it,” she said.

Knight’s experience with Calvary led her to begin attending services there shortly after the first Juneteenth event.

“I decided I wanted to join the church because of its sense of community,” she said. “I wanted to belong to a church that had a combination of young folks, middle age (people), and seniors, and a church that was community-based.

“When I started learning about the different programs they had and went on their Facebook page and saw some of the different (activities they offered) … I thought, ‘This is the church I’ve been looking for most of my life.’”

 

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