Special to the Journal
For Albany State University students, this year’s Juneteenth was more than just a celebration; it was also a time to help those devastated by tornadoes in Alabama.
Juneteenth, also known as one of the Emancipation Celebrations of African Americans after the Civil War, celebrate freedom from slavery and the collective efforts of external communities in assisting those in need.
ASU students and volunteers gathered on the J.C. Reese Student Union grounds from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday, June 16, for a carnival that welcomed children from local summer programs to enjoy sweet treats, quilt storytelling, live music, oversized inflatables and creative displays of expression.
Just before the celebration, ASU students packed up donations of baby diapers, soap, deodorant and other toiletry items. In the weeks before the celebration, the ASU Office of Student Life and Activities collected the items from ASU students and local churches that would go to the Benjamin Barnes YMCA of Tuscaloosa, Ala., where they would be distributed to those still suffering the after-effects of the April tornadoes that devastated the area.
The packed boxes were loaded onto a van on Friday, June 17, and taken to Alabama, where they were a welcome sight for Lakeda Smith, executive director of the Benjamin Barnes YMCA in Tuscaloosa. Smith welcomed ASU volunteers into the 51-year-old facility, which was constructed during segregation only five miles away from another YMCA.
Smith explained that many of the Benjamin Barnes YMCA members and local community residents did not have access to the resources provided around Tuscaloosa due to lack of transportation and displacement. Smith and her staff worked to provide for the local community by using the YMCA van to deliver items.
In addition to celebrating an African-American holiday, ASU students also reached out to those in need.