CASCADE COUNTY, Mont. - Despite facing racism and hardships for well over a century, the black community in Great Falls has always stood strong since first arriving in the 1880s.
Now, they’re coming together with anyone and everyone, as the city celebrates the end of slavery for the very first time.
People from all walks of life gathered around Gibson Park in a casual block party, celebrating pieces of history and culture that are often overlooked. With a lively atmosphere all around, they clapped along to the choir on stage, commemorating an important milestone in the Electric City.
“This great event that they’re hosting today is kind of the start to showcase the diversity and inclusion within the city and get a lot of people out,” said Volunteer Kymyenna Mitchell.
“Having different people out here celebrating Juneteenth, I think it’s awesome,” said Darnell Dobson, who also lent a helping hand to the festivities.
Juneteenth, which just recently became a federal holiday, started with the freed slaves of Galveston, Texas, with many Black communities observing it across the country.
However, Juneteenth can mean a lot of different things, depending on who you ask. “[It’s] celebrating freedom, freedom of African American History within the United States of America,” said Dobson.
“It really just shows how far my ancestors fought, how far that they’ve come to get to that point in Juneteenth of being free,” said Mitchell.
For fellow Volunteer Chrislande Deravil, helping out with the celebrations is her way of continuing her parents’ work, while adding to their legacy.
“I was born to two wonderful parents who immigrated from Haiti, a Caribbean island. And they ultimately did their best to give my brothers and I everything they could give,” she said. “I’m just super blessed to be in this predicament that I am today.”
As a whole, this event marks more progress in bringing unheard stories to light. However, the volunteers tell Montana Right Now there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
“We’re going to continue to educate, we’re going to continue to praise and we’re going to continue to push through those (racial) stereotypes,” said Mitchell.
“Ultimately, it’s about communicating and teaching through our actions,” said Deravil, encouraging families to teach kids about other groups and cultures at a young age.
The event may be over, but Dobson says it’s never too late to broaden your horizons and learn more about your neighbors. All you have to do is ask.
There’s still work to do when it comes highlighting diversity across the Electric City, but everyone speaking with MRN says this is a good first step.