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Lakers celebrate Juneteenth with local community at Hampton block party

(June 24, 2024) - One day of the year simply wasn’t going to do it for Clayton State University and its Lakers when it came to celebrating Juneteenth.

Lakers from the university's Dept. of Dental Hygiene share free supplies with a local resident.

Faculty, staff, and students celebrated Juneteenth into the weekend alongside the rest of the Clayton County community at the “Clayton Connected: Juneteenth Block Party” on Saturday, June 22, at the Gerald Matthews Complex in Hampton.

Lakers, neighbors, and all attendees were invited to pull up a lawn chair or rest on a blanket and enjoy the day’s festivities, which included learning the importance of the historic holiday, partaking in county resources, supporting local businesses, gaining health and wellness information, and more.

Those who attended additionally competed in various contests and games while enjoying live music and food trucks.

Guests even had the opportunity to receive health screenings and hands-on CPR training, while COVID-19 vaccinations were provided for eligible Clayton County residents at the event, as well.

Dr. Naquilla Thomas, the chair of the Dept. of Dental Hygiene at Clayton State University, was ecstatic for the weekend’s festivities and was “deeply moved” by the institution’s participation in the celebration. 

“It was inspiring to see the students engage so passionately with the history and significance of this day,” Thomas said. “Their enthusiasm and thoughtful reflections remind us of the importance of acknowledging and learning from our past to build a more inclusive future. I look forward to continuing these meaningful conversations and activities with our students.”

Thomas was also thrilled to see a great number of Lakers celebrating with the community, as well.

Dental Hygiene seniors Aja Binta Janneh and Dareyan McQueen, like Thomas, were honored to represent the university and its commitment to serving its neighbors. 

The two are already anticipating the county’s next Juneteenth celebration in 2025.

“Celebrating Juneteenth is very important because it represents true freedom from being enslaved – particularly for the 250,000 slaves in Texas that were unaware the Emancipation Proclamation was passed,” McQueen said. “It felt amazing seeing Clayton State being represented in Clayton County because this is our community, our people. When we attend events in the community, it allows people to see what resources are available near them.”

“The celebration of Juneteenth shows continued emancipation of Black people in the United States,” Janneh said. “It marked the end of slavery and the commencement of inclusivity, oneness, and liberty. The representation of Clayton State in the block party shows that we can be counted on in community events and services. The joint collaborations show unity, support, and reliability.” 

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