Juneteenth marks a celebration of life and freedom for the people of Warsaw | Local
WARSAW – On June 19, 1865, Union Major-General Gordon Granger led soldiers to Galveston, Texas, to announce that the war was over and all slaves were free. This moment in history is now celebrated as Juneteenth. Residents of Duplin County observed on June 17 last Saturday with music, games, food and a mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic at 312 E. College St., Warsaw.
“This is the culmination of our work,” said Donald Hughes, War 4 Life program coordinator. “People are ready to come back to life with events like this, and getting the vaccine is the way to do that.”
War 4 Life is an organization dedicated to serving disadvantaged communities with economic development and leadership. They joined with other community organizations, such as Shackle Free Community Outreach Agency, Inc.
“Our goal is to identify health disparities and provide solutions,” said Chiquitaa Lesene, Founder and CEO of Shackle Free Community Outreach Agency, Inc. “We use events like this to reach out to the whole person: body, mind and spirit. We want people to be healthy on all fronts. With Duplin and other rural counties running low on essential resources, there is an urgent need to reach out to people and break the cycle of poor health and poverty. Our goal is to ensure that people are empowered and connected to the resources they need to stay that way. “
As attendees celebrated Liberation Day, the shadow of COVID-19 lingered. Doctors were on hand to educate people on the importance of getting vaccinated and taking the necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy.
“We celebrate freedom today, but we are not entirely free from COVID-19,” said Dr. Mary Braithwaite, medical officer for Chapel Hill Pediatrics. “There is still a lot of misinformation out there. Some people are still hesitant and have legitimate concerns about the vaccine. For those who are grappling with such questions and concerns, I urge them to speak with their family doctor and loved ones who have been vaccinated. There are reliable and trustworthy sources for people, and they are the ones they should turn to.
The spirit of community and conviviality permeated the atmosphere of the event. It is this spirit that healthcare professionals and community leaders hope to use for the well-being and safety of all residents they serve.
“It all starts with the community,” said Dr. Angelo Moore, program director at the Duke Cancer Institute Office of Health Equity. “People in marginalized communities rely on a collective approach to care for one another. They want to go to people they trust. That is why we need to partner with local institutions such as churches, schools and others to connect with residents. Unfortunately, many of these people cannot come to us due to lack of transportation. So we have to come to them, which is why we are here today.
People were able to drop off in the mobile unit for the Pfizer vaccine, including children aged 12 and older. For the people who came, it was about being there for the family and the community.
“I have lost four loved ones to COVID,” said Ed Baldomero, accompanied by his daughter Gaby, both vaccinated and attending the festival. “I travel a lot for work, so I haven’t been able to get the vaccine yet. The fact that this unit came here was great. It is my responsibility to my family and my community to protect them and help them stay healthy.
The desire to protect loved ones was a major factor in motivating others present to receive the vaccine as well. This was the driving force behind Jasmine Ambrose, Chief Grants Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinator for Shackle Free Community Outreach Agency, Inc. Ambrose drove 90 minutes to attend the event and get vaccinated.
“I am here to protect my family,” Ambrose said. “My parents are immunocompromised. Many of my family have been infected with COVID. As a clinical mental health counselor, I also want to stay well for my clients. “
Healthcare workers and other frontline workers remain at risk. Supporting them with resources and vaccination was also on the agenda of the organizations present.
“We are here for our community health workers,” said Lisa Robinson, of Mt. Executive Director of the Calvary Center for Leadership Development. “We serve 10 counties, including Duplin. Our priority right now is vaccine registration and health education, but we stand ready as a community resource for our leaders and those they serve. “
Just as the emancipated slaves moved forward after receiving news that changed history, community members and leaders want to see everyone come forward stronger and healthier than ever after the past events of the year and half past.
“I want people to understand our journey to freedom,” said Paula Williams, event attendee. “Our ancestors had to overcome great adversity, and we continue to face our own battles today. But today is a happy occasion and we are walking on it. Today is ours.