RACINE — Lesia Hill-Driver had a vision for Juneteenth that was broader than just the historical legacy and a day of barbeques.
“The thought was not only do we need to celebrate in that manner, but we also need to educate and pull people in the community together and teach things that will make us a stronger people,” she said.
Hill-Driver is the supervisor at John Bryant Community Center, the headquarters for Racine’s Juneteenth, which will be celebrated with a week of events that includes classes in art, history, health and financial independence. There was a kickoff event Saturday.
Hill-Driver said one of the quotes she stands on is, “The mind is the key that sets the captive free.”
The week was made possible with the formation of the Juneteenth Day Committee, which meeting began in February.
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Hill-Driver said the theme for the week is “We’re stronger together.”
“As one unit it can only get better,” she said of the events meant to bring the black community together. “We can only do more because we’re united and moving together.”
Hill-Driver said the weeklong event was historic — coming just a year after President Joe Biden signed legislation that made Juneteenth a federal holiday — and encouraged all members of the community to share in the celebration.
The first event of the week was the walk for breast cancer awareness organized by the Sisters Network of Southeastern Wisconsin.
Keeshia T. Jones — herself a breast cancer survivor and president of the Sisters Network of Southeastern Wisconsin — organized the walk to raise awareness of the importance of monthly self-examines and yearly mammograms.
“In the 30-40 years ago, if you heard breast cancer, it was a death sentence,” she said. “There are now so many treatment options, it doesn’t have to be — especially if it’s caught early.”
“We do a lot for others in terms of our families, work and our church,” she said. “But in order to take care of our families, we have to take care of ourselves.”
Black women experience breast cancer at slightly lower rates than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, black women die from breast cancer at a 40% higher rate than white women.
Jones said there are health care disparities that contribute to that number. Black women tend to be diagnosed later, which brings with it the potential for the cancer to metastasize, a more difficult diagnosis that requires more intensive treatment needs, Jones said.
An article published in Hopkins-Bloomberg Public Health by Jenn Walton stated the most serious health issue black women face is “the system.”
Jones said if black women do not ask the questions they have correctly, their concerns are dismissed, as if the question were not important, and they will not have that very important early diagnosis.
She encouraged women to take action if something doesn’t feel right, reiterating that women know their own bodies.
“Don’t put it off,” she said. “Make it a priority.”
Jones said the Sisters Network Inc. was excited to partner with the Juneteenth Day Committee for a week of events meant to empower the black community.
One of the primary sponsors for Racine’s Juneteenth week was JP Morgan Chase, which will offer classes on financial literacy this week.
Annette Washington, of JP Morgan Chase, is the community manager for Kenosha and Racine Counties, who spoke with the Journal Times about opportunities that will be offered to improve the community’s understanding of financial literacy.
She said based on the company’s commitment to racial equity, the time was right.
Washington said she was out in the community when she “was fortunate enough to meet Lesia,” who shared her vision for a broader Juneteenth celebration.
Washington said the classes were organized with the partnership of Divine 9, an African-American sorority, and will include a variety of issues from home-buying workshops, to the dangers of predatory lenders, credit and the fundamentals of managing money.
She said some people will utilize places for ATM cards and a variety of other money management needs because the location is convenient, but that convenience is costing them in fees.
The classes will help people learn how to build their credit in the right way so they are in a better position to buy a car or home.
The classes can help people know their options.
The schedule of classes on financial literacy can be viewed here: CityOfRacine.org/ParksRec/Events/Juneteenth
Racine’s weeklong Juneteenth celebration kicks off, in photos and video
Miss Juneteenth pageant
Miss Juneteenth Contestants
Miss Juneteenth Soija Cameron
Miss Juneteenth talent
Watch Now: Racine’s Miss Juneteenth Soija Cameron
Watch Now: Keeshia Jones of the Sisters Network
Miss Juneteenth traditional dance
Miss Juneteenth judges
Sisters Network walk for breast cancer awareness
Sisters Network walk for breast cancer awareness
Sisters Network: warming up before the walk