The organizers of a
solidarity march celebrating Juneteenth in Chesterton Friday say the march
is their way of doing more amid nationwide unrest and calls for action.
Becky Uehling and Mark Strudas are behind the event. Uehling is an English
teacher and international baccalaureate coordinator at Chesterton High
School. Strudas is a lifelong Chesterton resident and U.S. Marine Corps
veteran. Strudas, recently accepted to Northwestern University’s Feinberg
School of Medicine, said he’s been active in peace and social justice
initiatives for the past 15 years
Uehling said she
saw rallies in response to the May 25 killing of George Floyd and renewed
calls for police reform happening in other nearby communities, including
Valparaiso and Portage, and wondered if anyone would organize something in
varying size and volatility have taken place nationwide and in several
Northwest Indiana communities since white Minneapolis, Minn. police officer
Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Two
autopsies have since ruled Floyd’s death a homicide and Chauvin has been
charged with second-degree murder. Floyd had been suspected of passing a
counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store.
“I thought about it
for about a week, then I thought, ‘I’m going to do it,’” Uehling said. She
reported she took advice from her friends who are speech coaches and people
of color in planning the event.
“As a teacher, I
feel like I walk the walk, but I realize that I can always do more. This is
my way of doing more. I teach ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and ‘The Bluest Eye’,
and we have some great discussions, but this is part of me doing more,”
thinking of planning his own event when he learned about Uehling’s and
reached out to help. “I was of course focused on what was happening across
the country and trying to understand the concerns of the black community,”
Strudas said his
concerns turned local when Bob Allison stepped down from the Chesterton Town
Council after his Facebook comments on a video of a May 30 Hammond protest
drew ire from many in the community. Strudas, for his part, said the Town
took appropriate action condemning Allison’s comments, but he nonetheless
thought it was important to hold an event showing solidarity with all people
around the nation and world.
The march is
planned to start at the Chesterton Police Department at 5 p.m. and proceed
to Thomas Centennial Park where speakers will address the crowd. Speakers
include broker/owner of Better Homes and Garden Real Estate Connection of
Crown Point Clarence Webb, Stanford University Senior and award winning
poet/filmmaker Angel Smith, and Valparaiso City Council member Robert
organization Indivisible NWI will be on site to register voters, and
t-shirts will be available for sale with the proceeds to benefit the Equal
The event is meant
to be a peaceful and educational show of solidarity, Strudas said. Uehling
and Strudas said the event will be kid-friendly, and noted participants must
wear masks and practice social distancing to help prevent the spread of
Friday’s event is
not just a solidarity march, but a celebration of Juneteenth, which
commemorates the day that enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas.
Were informed of their freedom on June 19, 1865Ñtwo years after the
Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
There is a push to
recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday. Target, Best Buy, and U.S. Bank
made national headlines this week for declaring Juneteenth a company
holiday. The American Medical Association is also giving its employees a
half-day on Friday and encouraging them to use their afternoons for
reflection and learning.
Police Department, in collaboration with Uehling, released a press statement
about the march Wednesday. Broadway will be closed between 8th Street and
Calumet starting at 5 p.m. Friday. There will be no parking on the north
side of Broadway between Calumet and 3rd Street starting at 3 p.m. Parking
for participants is available in the lot across from the Police Department
and along the street on Broadway past 3rd Street, the CPD release said.