Juneteenth: Free events for all


Juneteenth is considered our nation’s second Independence Day. It’s the day Union troops freed more than 250,000 slaves in Texas two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

To celebrate the freedom of everyone in our nation, Mary Bibbs of Bibbs Firm/Sylver Strategies created Juneteenth in the Park. The event will be held at Town Point Park in Norfolk in collaboration with Norfolk Fest Events.

“People can expect a lot of fun. We’ll provide food at no cost. We have a lot of games. We have a kids zone for kids where the museum is partnering with us, and they’ll do face paintings and tons of security around the kids,” said Bibbs. “We have a sensory zone for those kids with special needs that may get overexcited and need to go into the sensory zone. We will have resources. We’ll have physicals being done on site, mammogram, physical studies, interim mammograms through Chesapeake Regional. We’ll have physicians on site to talk about some of the frequently asked questions in terms of our health and wellness. We’ll have a ton of health and wellness information, a ton of financial literacy information. We’re going to talk about everything, the true and false things, that we’ve heard a lot. We’ll have dance contests, good food, good fun, good celebration. We’re just going to have a good time. It is our party with a purpose.”

10 On Your Side asked Bibbs why she is adamant that everything at Juneteenth in the Park is free.

“It’s so important to me because everything costs. It is important because Juneteenth is a National Independence Day from 1865, and when we think about freedom, we think about your health is your wealth,” said Bibbs. “If you’re not free financially, economically, health and wellness wise, if you’re not whole, you’re not free. So, I wanted this to be free because we want to give people resources and the ability to take ownership of their health, their finances, their economic status, their literacy. Whatever you need, we have someone in the park to help you.”

“One of the things that’s really, really huge that I love is we have a job fair. A lot of companies that you see that are sponsors also hire people. We’ve had middle managers hired. So, it’s not just low paying jobs,” Bibbs continued. “It is living wage paying jobs, and they walk them through the process. Workforce has been a partner through the years with this, and so we help people in the park fill out their resume, go through the interview process, and they work through that to get the job. It is important to give back to the community. I think that on a day of celebrating freedom, we should make sure that everyone can have a good time. There are people who are struggling, and they cannot afford to come out. If you have four kids, you can’t afford to come out and buy food for all four kids. So, we make sure that even with the ice cream, we use what we call these ‘Juneteenth Bucks’ and we walk through the park and we give people the Juneteenth Bucks so they can go and purchase additional stuff that they may want.”

Bibbs said they will have a high end caterer who will provide hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, cookies and fries at the event.

“We do have select vendors with a variety of food. However, if you can’t afford the vendor, we pass out the Juneteenth Bucks to large families, so that they can go and purchase, and then we reimburse those vendors. So, they give us the fake bucks back, and then we reimburse them. We want people to come out and have a good time.”

Thousands of dollars worth of gift cards will be given away at the event through different games, such as True or False.

“When we first started this in 2021, there were myths flying everywhere about COVID, about health and wellness,” Bibbs said. “You didn’t know where to go and get the truth. So, we partnered with the hospitals, the banks, the subject matter experts, and we had them to submit to us their frequently asked questions. We had the City of Norfolk to make these paddles, and we gave about 500 of them away. So, we asked those frequently asked questions submitted to us by the companies, ‘Can you get cancer from drinking our tap water?’”

Bibbs says participants of the game hold up a paddle labeled true or false. If they get the answer correct, they stay in the game. If they get the answer wrong, they are out.

“It’s so much fun because we mix it with dancing,” Bibbs said. “So, it’s a way to provide valuable information to the community in a way that’s palatable to them because they won’t forget it. Because the way we present it is so much fun.”

Bibbs emphasizes Juneteenth in the Park is for all ages, races and backgrounds. It’s a true celebration of freedom.

Juneteenth in the Park is scheduled for Saturday, June 15, from noon until 6:30 p.m. at Town Point Park.

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