Flint, MI — Despite the rain, thousands of community members came together to celebrate Black history, culture, and freedom during Flint’s 2021 Juneteenth celebration including honoring Flint’s Champ Claressa Shields.

“I feel great, I’ve had celebrations before but none as big as this one. I think it’s deserved and overdue but I’m happy that it’s happening now and that everyone can like and appreciate my hard work and my accomplishments,” Shields said.

Claressa Shields livestreams from her phone during the Champions Parade where she was celebrated for her record setting boxing career and her recent Mixed Martial Arts fight win. The Champions Parade was part of city-wide Juneteenth celebrations in Flint, Mich. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Shields, fresh off of a successful MMA debut, led the Champions Parade. The event drew thousands of bystanders and parade members to downtown Flint.

 Shields’ fans lined the sidewalks of Saginaw Street, hoping for the chance to catch a glimpse of the world champion.

“We love you Claressa…We are all so proud of you,” said fans as the parade headed to Berston Field House on Flint’s north side.

Flint’s Champ Claressa Shields leads the Juneteenth Champions Parade in Flint, Mich. (Santiago Ochoa | Flint Beat) .
Claressa Shields is interviewed by media during the Champions Parade celebrating Juneteenth in Flint, Mich. On June 19, 2021. Shields was an honoree at the parade after becoming a record holder in the boxing ring and winning her first MMA fight the previous Thursday. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

After the year that has just passed, where Black issues were at the forefront of the national conversation and Juneteenth being made a federal holiday just days before the holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved Black people, Shields said it made her happy to see more people celebrating. 

“This Juneteenth is a lot different. Juneteenth is now a national holiday … me and my family never celebrated it. I just started celebrating it in the last two or three years. It being an official holiday means a lot,” Shields said also acknowledging that she did not grow up celebrating the Juneteenth holiday.

Festivities also included vendors, food stands, live music and entertainment, bounce houses for children and an exotic animal display.

The Sparkle Pink Club for Girls is an empowerment and self-esteem boosting club based in Flint, Mich. Their float was part of the Champions Parade celebrating Juneteenth on June 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Shirmae Harris, 17, of Flint leads the For The Love of Dance Studio group down Saginaw Street for the Champions Parade celebrating Juneteenth on June 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The Detroit Pistons Drumline leads the Chamions Parade celebrating Juneteenth on Saginaw Street in Flint, Mich. on June 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Michael Caldwell, 60, and Sheletta Segrese, 43, both of Flint, hold their puppets outside of Berston Field House on June 19, 2021. Their puppets names are Julio and Angelica. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
The Wolfpack Cheer squad marches in the rain down Saginaw Street in Flint, Mich. during the Champions Parade on June 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Mayor Sheldon Neeley and his wife State Representative Cynthia Neeley take cover under umbrellas during a rainy afternoon at the Champions Parade celebrating Juneteenth in Flint, Mich. on June 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

A mile away, at Max Brandon Park, the Traditional Juneteenth Celebration was hosting its Freedom Festival, where hundreds of residents came together to honor Juneteenth itself as well as community members, including E. Hill DeLoney.

DeLoney, a former social worker in Flint for 50 years, came to be known by many as “the Mother of Flint.” For her, now an 82-year-old woman, living to see Juneteenth become a federal holiday is something she never expected, nor did she expect to be celebrated along with the holiday.

The Black Lives Matter Flint Chapter leader DeWaun Robinson leads the Traditional Juneteenth Celebration at Max Brandon Park in Flint, Mich. on June 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

“It didn’t start out that way,” DeLoney said with a laugh when asked about her part in the Freedom Festival.

“Personally, I have been celebrating this day for 60 years, I never thought I would live to see the federal government put together a federal holiday. I don’t know if I have the words to describe what I feel,” DeLoney said. 

Shanta Smith, 45, and Antoine Brown, 50 of Flint are TBR Music Group. They performed a song “Keys to the Kingdom” at the Traditional Juneteenth Celebration at Max Brandon Park in Flint, Mich. on June 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Eugene Williams, 68, and Frank Haralson, 75, both of Flint, are part of the Buffalo Soldiers motorcycle group and were honored at the Traditional Juneteenth Celebration at Max Brandon Park in Flint, Mich. on June 19, 2021 for their commitment to culture. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

In downtown Flint, Juneteenth celebrations continued in Brush Park and Buckham Alley melded into one as hundreds of people in Saginaw Street bridged the gap between the two events. 

“I’m so happy and my heart is so warm to see the community come together and celebrate what Juneteenth is supposed to be about. It’s about community, unity, freedom and liberation,” said Egypt Otis, owner of Comma Bookstore and one of the organizers for the Black Buckham Juneteenth Festival.

Poet Frankie Mcintosh, 22, sits at the Poet for Hire tent at the Black Buckham Juneteenth Festival in Buckham Alley in Downtown Flint on June 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

The event stretched Buckham Alley and featured Poets-for-Hire, food and music. 

In Brush Park, attendees watched live on-stage performances from the park’s lawn and had access to a number of food vendors, including barbecue, ice cream and tacos.

Laayla Strong, 14, and Antinyah Williams, 14, of Flint sit on a picnic blanket in Brush Park in downtown Flint for the Juneteenth Festival on June 19, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Santiago Ochoa

Santiago Ochoa is Flint Beat's Latinx Community reporter. He is always looking to write about anything Flint or Latinx. He especially enjoys investigative reporting and human-interest stories. A communications...

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