“It’s (Juneteenth) really a reflection and celebration, and just remembering that we are one community.”
Tracy Stokes said Covington’s Juneteenth event is set apart from others because they focus on providing information about access to services.
“We know that many times folks of color, especially Black Americans globally, there is a disparity when it comes to access to services, health care, educational, career, and community services,” said Stokes, a senior consultant of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, which is partnering with the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission, also known as NKCAC, to put on the event.
Juneteenth, also known as “Freedom Day,” marks the date of June 19, 1865, the day a group of enslaved people in Texas finally learned they were free.
Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but it wasn’t until two years later that the news had finally circulated all the way around the country.
Today, communities around the country celebrate this federal holiday with food, family and joy.
Before joining St. Elizabeth, Stokes worked for NKCAC as the director of the Fatherhood Program. While Stokes was there, she started the Juneteenth event.
“What we wanted to do is combine the celebration,” Stokes said. “We want to have some fun, but we also want to make sure that we are providing information about access to general health providers, testing, we have some cancer screening.”
St. Elizabeth/NKCAC’s third annual Juneteenth Celebration will be held on June 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lincoln Grant Scholar House at 824 Greenup St. in Covington.
Stokes said the site of the event itself is historic. The building, from the early 1930s, served as Covington’s public school for African-American students from kindergarten through 12th grade. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and has also been designated as an African American Heritage Site by the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission.
In addition to the testing and screening, St. Elizabeth will have information on healthcare, access to healthcare jobs, and open positions. Further, educational information will be provided by Northern Kentucky University, Gateway Community & Technical College, and Thomas More University.
A panel will also speak about Covington’s past, present, and future at the event. Reverend Richard Fowler with Ninth Street Baptist Church in Covington will discuss the city’s past. NKCAC Executive Director Catrena Bowman will speak on the city’s future, and NAACP President Jerome Bowles will discuss Covington’s present.
The first year the event was held, approximately 150 people participated; that number has since grown to around 300. The event will have entertainment from African dancers, a DJ, and an instructor teaching line dances.
A free lunch will be served at noon, and 200 free T-shirts will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis.
Stokes said the Juneteenth event makes her think of the word “Ubuntu.”
“It’s a South African philosophy that says that ‘I am because you are,’ and I think that if we remember that, we are going to grow as a community,” Stokes said. “We are going to learn as a community; we are going to respect as a community.”