BY SHERRY CARTER-ALLEN
On Saturday, June 22, the Martin Luther King Jr Park gave birth to a Juneteenth celebration like never before! It was the NAACP Peoria Branch 5th Annual Community Outreach — entitled the “NAACP Peoria Branch Juneteenth Family Reunion Celebration!”
Despite the challenges that face our community, this was a day of commemoration, celebration, inspiration and empowerment . . . ALL focused on the Family! With 15 sponsors and 49 vendors displaying their interests with a sea of popup tents all over the park, the surrounding community was more than ready for a day of peace, reconciliation, atonement and family unity. The NAACP organizers, Sherry Carter-Allen and Chris Wade with the blessings of the NAACP Peoria Branch President Marvin Hightower and the Executive Board, created a day of family unity with food, fun speakers and games! But of course, that’s what family reunions are all about!
Major Sponsors such as the Elite Program provided total grounds operations, soundstage and bouncy houses for the children, Elite supervisors and workers. Laborers International Union of North America Local #165 in collaboration with Rabers Meat Packing provided meals for over 500 children and “family” members of the community! Other sponsorers in the Peoria community made it possible that the youth had water towers to run through, face painting and horseback riding, bike riding, Segways, pre-school examinations, on-site voters registration, on-site NAACP membership opportunities, health screenings, on-site job screening and opportunities, CPR training, GED and Educational Adult Programs, police and fire programs, introduction to construction trades, yoga, and opportunities to purchase goods from home-grown vendors!
Mayor Ardis, State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, State Sen. Dave Koehler, District Councilwoman Denise Moore and at-large Councilwoman Rita Ali, “It Takes a Village, Inc.” CEO Bernice Gordon-Young, Peoria Park District President Robert Johnson, community activist and columnist Sherry Cannon, Executive Director of Grass Roots Collaborative Chama St. Louis, Methodist College Dean of Students Andre Allen and Peoria County Auditor, Jessica Thomas and voters activists Helen King and Jackie Petty addressed the community in messages of unity, hope and community wellness. The speakers were accompanied with Songs of Jubilee from powerful spirit-filled local choirs and artists such as the Ward Chapel AME Mass Choir, the Southside Mission Youth Drumline, Liberty United Love Ministries “Voices of Liberty,” Randsomed Ecclesia Chorale, Dominique Adams and Spoken Word by none other than JC Brown- Adams!
With hundreds in attendence, people embracing each other with hugs, networking, reacquainting with classmates and others from the “old neighborhoods” who came from as far as California and as nearby as Metamora, Martin Luther King Junior Park reflected on that day what the name sake of the park Dr. King would have cherished; A Family of Diversity, A Family of Peace, A Family United on One Accord!
What a Family Reunion it was!!!💕