INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An event planned for months on the University of Indianapolis campus couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.
The Juneteenth Family Affair began about 10 minutes after President Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
It was the first year the University of Indianapolis put on its own Juneteenth celebration, an event that certainly took on new significance.
After years of speakers, conversations and discussions around the day, the Family Affair brought a lot more.
“I feel like it’s a step in the right direction hopefully,” said Tylyn Johnson, a fourth-year student at the University of Indianapolis who also helped plan the event.
It included music, speakers, a basketball tournament and plenty of food.
Johnson believes it needs to be much more than that.
“I hope it means something, but that depends on how the institution acts afterward. If this becomes just a party or if it’s used as a stepping stone and uplifts the Black students and Black community,” he said. “I want people to celebrate Black history and what Black people do, but I don’t want it to be a token for them and I don’t want them to commercialize it.”
University of Indianapolis President Robert Manuel said the event is a good opportunity to bring people together and celebrate the concepts of diversity.
“It’s moments like this that allow everyone at the university to see how important it is to have community that is inclusive,” Manuel said. “My job now is to help everyone who works here — faculty, staff, even students in their leadership role — how to include that into the work they do.”
Carolyn McNeal attended the Family Affair with her daughter and grandchildren.
“Yes, it is a big deal,” McNeal said. “Actually it’s a huge deal.”
She believes there’s still a long way to go. But make no mistake, she believes making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a milestone that she thought she’d never seen in her lifetime.
“No I did not,” she said.
With her grandchildren by her side, she believes there’s definitely signs of progress and a little more motivation to keep fighting for change.
“We still experience so much, but sometimes you just need that extra little push and so with you see signs, it gives you the momentum to push on,” McNeal said.