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Black-owned business stays open for Juneteenth to educate, celebrate with Toledo community

For some, the holiday may be seen as another day off work, but others consider this holiday independence.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Dozens of celebrations were held to honor Juneteenth. It's only the second year that the holiday has been recognized at a federal level.

For some, the holiday may be seen as another day off work but others consider this holiday independence.

Juneteenth has been celebrated in the Black community for decades and only recently became a federally recognized holiday.

Toledo's NAACP president Willie Perryman says this holiday should be used as reflection and maybe a chance for people to learn more about what it means.

RELATED: Juneteenth is today: Here's its 150-year history

For Perryman, Juneteenth is important for two main reasons. 

It commemorates the day hundreds of thousands of Blacks learned of their freedom from slavery, but it also helps groups like the NAACP continue to fight for equality for colored people both in Toledo and across the nation.

Since it's a new federal holiday, Perryman says people might not know its history or what it means to the African American community. 

He urges us to take this time to immerse ourselves into the culture and celebration of Juneteenth.

"In our own community alone we had more than 24 events around Juneteenth and so persons who are not African American, we certainly want to encourage them and invite them to be a part of the celebrations and events," Perryman said. "They will have a better appreciation, better understanding of why we celebrate, how we celebrate and, more importantly, when we celebrate."

The owner of Hotbox Bistro in Toledo says that out of all days, Juneteenth is an important one to be open because they are a Black-owned business.

"People have been calling today asking if we're open and I'm like 'we're definitely open today,'" owner Keitha Speares said. "That was great. People have been coming in and showing support." 

She feels it's their job to be one of the places where people can come to learn about Black culture and the history of Juneteenth.

"It's great. It's been a long time coming. We finally get another holiday on the map and I know people are grateful for that," she said.

Sheares says the importance of Juneteenth means so much more than just a three-day weekend for federal employees.

"This is one of those days I probably won't ever be closed. I want to make sure we're open, so if people want to come in and support we're here," she said.

Despite the dozens of events in the area to commemorate the holiday, Perryman believes there's more work to be done.

"It's not taught enough in our school systems," he said. "It's our desire that our schools, public and private, raise the level bar and raise the bar in their curriculum as it relates to Juneteenth and the ideas that are so important to our culture."

Both Perryman and Sheares are urging people to take time to learn more about the holiday and be an ally and support those in the Black community.

"The whole reason for Juneteenth is about us finally being able to have freedom in some type of aspect," Sheares said. "And I think they should find a local business to support not just today, but often."

RELATED: More than a hashtag: How to support black-owned businesses in NW Ohio and SE Michigan


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