Chippewa Valley celebrates Juneteenth virtually

Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 4:53 PM CDT
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Juneteenth is the annual commemoration of the official end of slavery in the United States in 1865.

This year's holiday comes while national conversations about race are happening across the country following the death of George Floyd in custody of Minneapolis police officers in May.

To celebrate Juneteenth in the Chippewa Valley, local leaders, historians, professors and community members are taking part in an all day virtual event to discuss racism in America and its history in western Wisconsin.

A full schedule of events included open discussions about race, music, a media panel, history presentations and more.

"It is important to note that this kind of thing happened here in Eau Claire," says Adam Accola who participated in the discussions.

The Chippewa Valley Museum presented images from the 1800s and 1900s of KKK meetings in Lake Hallie, evidence of discriminatory housing practices in Eau Claire and ballots striking down Black mens' right to vote in Eau Claire County.

"Racism and discrimination and prejudice isn't limited to the south where we see a lot of that. it is quiet but it is present in the north as well," says Carrie Ronnander, Chippewa Valley Museum Director.

Professors explained recent campaigns throughout the United States to remove confederate monuments and statues.

"Monuments were intended to be fixed interpretations of the past and we historians know that our understanding of the past is not fixed. We find new evidence, we gain new perspective," says Cheryl Jimenez-Frei who teaches history at UW-Eau Claire. "In the case of these confederate monuments the vision for the future projected in these was a vision of white supremacy."

"You have to teach about these statues in the context that people erected these statues to try and send a message to African Americans," says UW-Stout professor Dr. Le'Trice Donaldson.

Area journalists including WEAU's Zach Prelutsky took part in a conversation on covering race issues in the media.

Local leaders and participants say listening and continuing to educate yourself is key to solving systemic racism.

"I don't care how many classes you take, k-12, college there is no way you are going to get everything you need to know to be an advocate for reality," says Anthony Milburn who participated in the virtual discussion.

The virtual event continues until 8 p.m. on Friday. For information to join on Zoom or Facebook Live, href="