Almost 500 people gathered at the Oakland County Courthouse on June 14 for the first official Juneteenth celebration, including raising the Juneteenth flag above the courtyard, and witnessing the dedication of Elizabeth Denison Forth’s historical marker.
The Welcome Missionary Baptist Church Choir kicked off the celebration with popular gospel hits such as, “How Great Is Our God” by Chris Tomlin followed by original music from recording artist and mental health advocate, Lauryn Nichole.
Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter spoke about the importance of Juneteenth, followed by Chief DEI Officer Harry Weaver III, who talked about the history of Juneteenth and slavery in the United States.
“While a lot of us have just started celebrating Juneteenth in the last few years, there have been enslaved Africans who have been celebrating Juneteenth for a century or more, oftentimes in secret,” Weaver said.
Oakland County Commissioner Angela Powell told the crowd about the achievements of Elizabeth Denison Forth as a formerly enslaved person, the first Black landowner in Oakland County and philanthropist while Commissioner Marcia Gershenson dedicated Forth’s historical marker.
“It’s important that people see that a woman, a Black former slave, is being recognized in our county and in the larger community,” Powell said. “This sign outside of the courthouse is just another reminder of where we’ve come from, and the potential we all have when we work together.”
A representative of Governor Gretchen Whitmer shared a Juneteenth proclamation and spoke of the success of the CROWN Act, which will protect Black residents from hair discrimination. Zach Zuchowicz, DEI and Community Engagement Officer, Oakland County Parks & Recreation announced free admission at all Oakland County parks on June 19.
Guests ate from several food trucks, including Fork in Nigeria, Heavenly Chicken & Waffles, Po Sam’s, P’s & Q’s Bakery & Cafe and Seoul Rolls on the Go throughout the event. They also shopped at A Father’s Presence, Jen’s Finest Things, Waisted Intentions and Brown Sugared Babies Boutique. Meijer and the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services with Oakland County’s Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center, Clerk/Register of Deeds, Equity Council, Health Division, Human Resources, Michigan Works!, Parks and Recreation, Prosecutor’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, Treasurer’s Office, Veterans’ Services, Water Resources Commissioner and Youth Assistance Mentor’s Plus gave out informational flyers, goodie bags and other free trinkets.
To learn more about Oakland County’s efforts to make our region more inclusive, visit the official website for the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: www.oakgov.com/equity.