By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – Organizers of Friday night’s Juneteenth prayer vigil at the Kosciusko County Courthouse are expecting to attract some of the supporters of the recent Black Lives Matter rallies, but are asking that they leave protest signs at home.
Sara Strahan-Lenfestey, who organized last year’s Juneteenth event at the Shrine Building last year, expects a bigger turnout for tonight’s event and agrees there might be some overlap from those who are calling for changes in policing and racial injustice but said plans for tonight will be much more somber.
The event is “a way to educate, a way to bring healing, a way to bring understanding and most importantly, love of our fellow brothers,” Strahan-Lenfestey said.
The vigil is set for 8 p.m. tonight at the courthouse, where a Black Lives Matter rally was held a day earlier.
Numerous guests, including educators and business owners, are expected to speak at Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is the annual American holiday that celebrates the end of slavery and the history and accomplishments of black Americans. This event welcomes many local school officials, business leaders, and pastors to speak about healing.
The event is sponsored by One Warsaw, a nonprofit that was re-organized in 2019 with a first annual community inclusion event last fall with the mission of supporting, celebrating, and educating all peoples.
“In the spirit of prayer and healing for our community, we recommend that you join us with social distancing guidelines and masks worn. The event will be live-streamed as well,” said a news release from One Warsaw.
“This is not a protest and so signs should not be brought,” the news release said.
Strahan-Lenfestey said she was a bit surprised by comments in a recent story announcing the vigil in which many said they were unfamiliar with Juneteenth.
“This is a great opportunity to open people’s minds in our community of what Juneteenth is,” she said.