OUR VIEW: Juneteenth celebration, march build on momentum in Winchester

“I think now we are seeing things as they really are,” Robert Conner of Winchester told Sun reporter Randy Patrick Friday night from the local Juneteenth celebration. “We can’t close our eyes and pretend that it’s not there.”

The “it” he refers to is the racial divide in our country that reaches deep into communities like ours.

In recent years, tremendous strides have been made to bridge that divide in Winchester and Clark County. Momentum is building, but work remains to be done.

Much of that effort came after The Greater Clark Foundation’s “Waving the Community’s Flag Report,” which noted that race relations was one of the major issues facing our community, was released in 2017.

Seeing the relatively large and diverse crowd that gathered Friday night to celebrate Juneteenth in Winchester was a sign that those efforts are working.

Two of the many local groups who have been behind the work to improve race relations in our community — The Winchester Black History and Heritage Committee and Better Together Winchester — were behind this weekend’s celebration.

If you had asked us five years ago if such an event would have taken place as a collective effort among racially diverse individuals in our community, we would have said no. Others at Friday night’s event agreed, with one person saying they didn’t think it would have been possible even last year.

Looking out over Friday’s crowd, there were people of all ages and many different races there to celebrate with the African-American community in Winchester.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the date when formerly enslaved people in one of the most remote parts of the former Confederacy, Galveston, Texas, learned from a Union Army general that the Civil War was over and they were free — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation actually freeing them.

The event was touching, and the evening was full of hope, with many commenting that they believe the event will become an annual thing and grow year after year.

We sincerely hope that is the case. We hope this momentum continues.

We hope that those in the black community, who we know are hurting, will continue to be vulnerable and open their hearts and their spaces for the white community to meet with them, to learn from them, to reshape their perspective. We know it’s not the black community’s job to teach the rest of the world how to be better, but we appreciate those who are willing to do so, and we hope white people in our community will continue to do the necessary work to bridge gaps.

The possibilities are endless and the future is much brighter for all the residents of Winchester and Clark County if this momentum can be maintained and the work continues.

Progress is great, but there’s still much to be done. We’ve seen a shift in our country in the last month, and that shift has been echoed in our community.

We can’t let all the bad news about this movement overshadow the good things happening to make sure everyone has the opportunity to prosper in our country and our community.


Editorials reflect the opinion of The Sun’s editorial board. To contact the board, email Editor Whitney Leggett at whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com.