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For Juneteenth, north St. Louis County leaders want to celebrate Black culture together

County Council Chairwoman Shalonda Webb, D-St. Louis County, writes "I love you, North County," on a canvas at the kickoff event for Juneteenth celebration "Five Days of Black Joy," Thursday, June 15.
Lilley Halloran
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Shalonda Webb, D-St. Louis County, writes ,"I love you, North County," on a canvas at the kickoff event for the Juneteenth celebration "Five Days of Black Joy," on Thursday.

North St. Louis County leaders want residents to celebrate Juneteenth together this year with “Five Days of Black Joy.”

To kick off the commemoration of the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, finally learned they were free, elected officials from north county gathered Thursday to discuss developing stronger partnerships within the Black community.

“We plan to rebuild north county. We plan to build up our communities. … And we plan to move forward in the strong numbers that we know,” said state Rep. Chantelle Nickson-Clark, D-Florissant.

Leaders at the “State of Us” brunch introduced four priorities for the region to address – food insecurity, economic development, crime and community engagement.

Nickson-Clark and others at the gathering said they hope tackling such challenges together will highlight the importance of inclusion within the Black community.

Moving forward, north county leaders intend to gather for similar conversations. Next year, they plan to meet to evaluate the partnership’s progress and form an action plan.

“This is not a one and done. This is something that we continually work on,” said St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Shalonda Webb, D-St. Louis County, who helped plan the Juneteenth events with Councilwoman Rita Heard Days, D-Bel-Nor.

Webb said she is committed to helping her constituents with the four priorities. However, she said she’s wary of painting her community in a negative light while doing so.

“I get calls all the time when there’s violence, when there’s fire, when there’s tragedy,” she said. “But when do you celebrate us? When do you come collectively, intentionally together to uplift our communities? I want to make sure that we change that image of our community.”

For Webb, the inaugural Juneteenth celebrations are not only the start of a partnership, but an opportunity to empower north county municipalities.

“Our Five Days of Black Joy is to do just that – to give joy to our communities, to make sure that we don’t give up. … Because if we lose hope [in] ourselves, who else will lift us up?”

The “State of Us” conversation marked the first day of events. Various north county municipalities will host other festivities through Monday, including free movie screenings, trivia and a music festival.

Webb said she’s excited for the weekend, which she said she hopes will highlight the resilience of her constituents and the rest of north county.

“Let’s dance together. Let’s be inclusive, and let’s celebrate the contributions of the Black community – the culture, the people, the families,” she said.

For a full list of events, visit the Facebook page North STL County Juneteenth Celebration.

Lilley Halloran is a Summer '23 News Intern at St. Louis Public Radio. She is a sophomore studying Journalism and Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri.

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