Hundreds Celebrate Juneteenth at Willkie House in Des Moines

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Juneteenth celebrations continued at Willkie House in Des Moines Friday night with hundreds of community members.

Des Moines Black Lives Matter changed its location for the event due to the weather. Willkie House Executive Director Jonathan Douglas said there was no question when the organizer asked to use the space for the event.

“This is the stuff I teach here every single day: Black history. We are over 100 years old, the oldest historically black organization in central Iowa, if not the whole state, and we work with youth,” Douglas said.

As people entered the building, they were greeted with hand sanitizer and a disposable mask.

Organizer Courtnei Caldwell said even during a pandemic it is important to come together and celebrate.

“Of everything that is going on — I mean, in the most transparent way, we are in the middle of a race war, and that’s as honest as I can be — to have something like Juneteenth to bring us all together, why not?” Caldwell said.

A basketball tournament filled the gymnasium. A variety of vendors offered people food, HIV testing and volunteers helped people sign up to vote.

Caldwell said the organizers hope to hold another event outside so more members of the community can celebrate.

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