Joyce Tofte is the co-founder of the MORE (Marshall and Mustangs Overcoming Racism through Education) Network and the co-chair of Marshall's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission. Tofte was in charge of organizing Marshall's first Juneteenth celebration.
Watch: Marshall's first Juneteenth celebration
"Juneteenth is an over 150-year-old celebration, but it's the first time Marshall, Minnesota has gotten the chance to properly celebrate it now that it's a federal holiday," Tofte said. "We all know the Emancipation Proclamation got signed 1863, so that ended slavery. What we forget about is that the internet didn't exist back then and so that meant that it took years for people to find out they were newly freed. So June 19 of 1865, the final Union soldiers got into Galveston, Texas and said, 'Hey, you guys have been freed for two years.' So that's freedom day. That's Juneteenth."
You might also like:
Hmong New Year
Marshall has Pride!
Michele Knife-Sterner is also on Marshall's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission. Additionally, Knife-Sterner works at Southwest Minnesota State University and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission partnered with the MORE Network to put on the event. "Marshall's my hometown and then I moved to Minneapolis and lived there for 17 years and so I heard about Juneteenth celebrations all the time going on there. ... It's one of those things that just seemed like it was a very urban-based event," Knife-Sterner said. "I think it's really important, especially since Marshall is such a diverse community, that we are reflective of who our community is and have celebrations that reflect our population. ... I think that that helps us create a better inclusive community for everyone."
The day started with a performance by and dance instruction from the Titambe West African Dance Ensemble at 10 a.m. Christian Adeti, artistic director for the group, was born and raised in Ghana. "The dance that we did and the ones that I was teaching everybody's called Kpanlogo," Adeti said. "That movement of pulling the rope with the net from the deep sea to the shore with the fishes, it's called Kpanlogo. It is a very recreational dance and it's a popular music and dance in Ghana, like how we have the American rock 'n' roll."
The rest of the event included soul and other culturally significant foods, said Tofte, including a red velvet cake bake off that was judged by Main Stay Cafe. "A lot of people don't understand the significance of red velvet cake or the color red and Juneteenth. [It's] to signify the blood that was shed during slavery," explained Tofte. "Anytime people learn something new, you give them a teaser, it allows them the time to dive deeper into it and learn more about history."
Knife-Sterner is Lakota and she said she's always been attracted to other cultures. "I really find that I enjoy being a part of anything that is diverse and allow us for people to learn and grow and see how we have commonalities instead of differences from one another," she said. I think that's really the important thing."