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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Indy’s minority firefighter and police officers’ associations led a community Juneteenth celebration at Kennedy-King Park.

The celebration began in 2020 as a healing gesture after the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis. After missing last year due to the pandemic, the event made its return, this time with Juneteenth a national and city holiday. About 100 people joined Indy’s public safety command — Mayor Joe Hogsett, the police and fire chiefs, and the Marion County sheriff and prosecutor — for a celebration and cookout.

Hogsett says Juneteenth is both a celebration and a reminder, to the community and to public officials, to recommit themselves to do better in ensuring equal opportunity for all. And Marion County family court Judge Geoffrey Gaither says where Martin Luther King Day is a day of service, and the Fourth of July a day to celebrate freedom, Juneteenth needs to be a day of learning, about the decades when African-Americans didn’t share that freedom, and about ways in which that freedom is sometimes incomplete yet today.

The event featured a quick splash of Hollywood, with a drop-by from Indianapolis-born actor and comedian Mike Epps.

Juneteenth commemorates the day the full end of slavery became a reality, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War. It marks the posting of an order from Union General Gordon Granger declaring all slaves free upon his arrival in Galveston to oversee post-Confederate Texas. The site of the Indianapolis event also holds significance in civil rights history. The park marks the spot where Robert Kennedy, campaigning in the Indiana presidential primary in 1968, broke the news of King’s assassination to a mostly black crowd.