Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune
Brenda Ashley-Dean encourages everyone to remember the struggles African Americans have faced and overcome.
Adeline Stokes survived years of abuse at the hands of her masters before escaping north to freedom.
The life of the former slave was celebrated Friday close to her grave at Potters Field, Westwood Cemetery.
Juneteenth officials gathered at Dobbins monument to commemmorate the African holocaust known as “Maafa,” which left millions dead during the long journey in captivity to the New World.
The Rev. Laurence Nevels of Christ Temple Apostolic Church reflected on the Stokes’ life.
“Her courage stands as an inspiration to every member of the National Association of Colored Women and to all men and women of the world because she was not alone,” Nevels said. “None of us are alone as we climb to new levels of living.”
The cemetery used to be a meeting place for African Americans to strategize for the future.
“We must look back to move forward,” Nevels said, invoking the theme of this year’s Juneteenth festivities.
Juneteenth is an annual celebration of the 1865 emancipation of all slaves in the United States.
Nevels said the observance of the day declined in the mid-20th century and almost became unknown, especially among white Americans.
“A Civil Rights movement, however, reinvigorated the entire concept of the heritage of African Americans and the revival of Juneteenth came to be seen as a maze of reminding one and all of the period of enslavement, the struggle of emancipation, and the subsequent struggle for equality,” he said. “Some may argue, ‘We have come a long way, baby,’ but we even have a longer way to go.”
He said African Americans are thankful for the freedoms they have but there are still inequities and injustices they must continue to fight.
“We who are living today must bear the burden and carry the load once fought for by those who journeyed before us,” Nevels said.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.