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Detroit celebrates Juneteenth; Duggan orders Columbus statue removed

Spirit of Detroit
Photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio
Spirit of Detroit

Detroit is celebrating Juneteenth with a week-long series of events starting on Monday.

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19. It commemorates the day in 1865 that slaves in Texas learned they would be freed.

Detroit’s celebration will feature a series of events focused on black history, mental and physical health, criminal justice reform, and growing black wealth, said Charity Dean, Detroit’s director of Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity. It will culminate with a rally in downtown Detroit’s Spirit Plaza on Friday.

Dean says the week’s purpose is not only to celebrate what it’s like to be black in America and in Detroit, but to inspire everyone who participates to change.

Dean said that “Juneteenth is a time to celebrate freedom, but it’s also a time to reflect on where we are. And we know we still have a long way to go in this country.”

“The thought is that, not only are we celebrating what it means to be black in America, [and] frankly what it means to be black in Detroit, but we are going to inspire everyone that participates to change,” Dean said. “And although we have a lot to be frustrated about right now, we also have a lot to celebrate as black people.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also announced on Monday that the city has removed a bust of Christopher Columbus from a prominent downtown location. It’s unclear, for now, where the bust will be placed, but Duggan said he “just didn’t see any reason to have any drama” over it.

“I’ve been bothered for awhile by the fact that the statue is occupying such a place of prominence next to city hall,” Duggan said. “But when I looked at some of the violence around the country, and in particular, you’ve got people with arms gathering around a Columbus statue in Philadelphia arguing with people; we just don’t need this. We should have a conversation as a community as to what is the appropriate place for such a statue.”

In other news, Monday was the day that barber shops, and hair and nail salons re-opened across Michigan, including in Detroit. Duggan said the city is ready to do that safely.

Duggan is urging all salon employees, as well as employees at other Detroit businesses, to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to work. He said 96 salon employees have been tested recently, and just one tested positive.

“I’m really glad that one who came in got tested,” Duggan said. “Because you think about that one barber, who might have seen 30 or 40 people this week; that’s the way this virus can spark back up and re-spread.”

The city is also offering stickers to businesses to designate that employees have been tested, and are virus-free. Duggan encouraged employees who have frequent contact with the public to get re-tested regularly.

Duggan also announced that the city has now performed more than 50,000 COVID-19 tests in the past three months. Those are tests that have been administered at city-run sites, and does not include tests conducted in hospitals or doctor’s offices. Around 40,000 of the tests have been administered at the testing site at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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