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Wausau, Stevens Point Hold First Juneteenth Celebrations

Kayley McColley

Juneteenth marks the day enslaved people in Texas were freed, two and half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

It’s a significant day, but it hasn’t been celebrated in many communities across North-Central Wisconsin until now.

Kayley McColley is helping to plan the first-ever Juneteenth celebration in Wausau.

It’ll feature arts and crafts, a book give-away to teach about black history, a vaccine clinic, live music and an open mic.

McColley said all of this is to bring people together to celebrate freedom.

“I understand that in Wausau, we have a much smaller black population and we’re not as visible,” she said. “But that being said, especially with Juneteenth just having passed as a federal holiday now, it’s important for everybody, not just the black population. Not everybody might have African heritage, but everybody can resonate with the importance of freedom.”

The celebration comes a year after McColley helped organize a march protesting George Floyd’s murder.

It also comes after the Marathon County board rejected a proposal to declare the county a “Community for All.”

“After the past year, there’s been a lot of division and it’s been really challenging,” McColley said. “I feel like it’s important to come together as a community and do something that is celebratory.”

Wausau’s first Juneteenth Freedom Day celebration is open to everyone.  

It’s June 19, from 2 to 9 p.m. at Whitewater Music Hall.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.