ORLANDO, Fla. – The Black Wall Street Juneteenth block party is one of several weekend celebrations to honor the holiday. The event was named in remembrance of the victims of the 1921 Tulsa riots massacre where white mobs burned down an affluent black neighborhood.
“This is our kind of take-over event like we are bringing excellence to this party to this day and to just shed light on that event and where we are now,” Knakeesha Samuels, event organizer and the creator of Black Friday Orlando said. “We just kind of want to change the narrative behind what that story means. We focus on bringing joy, having fun, bringing the families out and patronizing small businesses — Black-owned businesses.”
Samuels, an Afro-Latina from Panama, is the event organizer of the Juneteenth 407 weekend — now in its third year.
“This just means us making a financial impact and just a celebratory day that we can kind of put our stamp on,” Samuels said.
About 80 small Black-owned businesses will be along and near Wall Street Plaza in downtown Orlando. Samuels hopes to get results for entrepreneurs with guidance from advisors like Gene Martin of JP Morgan Chase.
“We have our minority entrepreneurship program that provides mentorship,” Martin said. “We are here to help guide, grow and scale your businesses not only through that mentorship piece, but we also provide financial health education.”
Other events around the City Beautiful include the Inaugural Juneteenth Celebration in Lake Lorna Doone Park, organized by city officials.
“We pride ourselves on being one of the most inclusive cities in America,” Merchon Green, equity and multicultural affairs official for the city of Orlando, said. Green told News 6 events like these inspire today’s generation to learn how they can make a positive impact in their communities.
“We are honoring Dr. Alzo Reddick as our Juneteenth champion, and Dr. Reddick has a history of firsts, so where there was representation needed, he didn’t wait on anyone else. He just stepped in and made it happen,” Green said.
Reddick was the first black teacher at Winter Park high school and the first Black man from Orlando elected to the state legislature since the Reconstruction era after the Civil War.
“Just telling that history saying hey, this is where we came from and although we have all these opportunities afforded to us today, we need to recognize that there was someone filling in the gap and advocating for us,” Green said.