Bashir Hassan signs his name on a Black Lives Matters chalk mural as Terri Wentzel, seated left, Ahyanna Carithers, Princess Monday and, standing in the back, Tulebari Monday watch. Edward Little High School staff and students in Auburn held a Chalk and Talk event in the high school parking area Friday for Juneteenth. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — It was a sweltering hot afternoon, but what’s a little heat wave when you’re trying to commemorate the holiday known as Juneteenth? 

In the parking lot behind Edward Little High School on Friday afternoon, the gathering began about 3 p.m. In temperatures that topped 90 degrees, it remained to be seen how large the gathering would become. 

Dane Morgan chats with people at the Chalk and Talk event at Edward Little High School parking area in Auburn on Friday for Juneteenth. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“It’s hard to gauge,” said Jonathan Delorme, one of the teachers who spearheaded the event. “It’s really hot out. There’s a pandemic going on and it’s summer. But I think a lot of people want to come out and have a peaceful show of solidarity. And I think this is a good way for kids to express themselves without without going to a protest.” 

Juneteenth commemorates the very last day that slaves were still living in bondage in the United States. In marks an occasion on June 19, 1865, when a Union Army general read an order in Galveston, Texas, announcing that all slaves were free. 

In Auburn, Delorme and fellow teacher Julie Balsamo decided that students, staff and others should have a chance to gather, talk and create as a way of celebrating the occasion and exploring its nuances. 

Sophia Carson works on a chalk drawing of George Floyd on the Edward Little High School parking lot in Auburn on Friday. Staff and students held a Chalk and Talk event in the high school parking area for Juneteenth. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“It’s really a welcoming event to educate people on some of the issues we’re going through right now economically and culturally,” football coach Ilunga Mutombo said. “The fact that a small place like ours is holding something like this is awesome. Just being here and talking is very educational. It’s K-12 so the kids are excited to be getting together. We’re really here to work together and to hear each other’s stories.” 

The event was named Chalk and Talk, and the plan was for students to create chalk art to express themselves while also hearing speakers on a range of topics. 

“The hope,” according to the school website, “is to start a dialogue about police brutality, racial discrimination, and what the school system can do better” 

High school Principal Scott Annear described the gathering as one that began as a vague idea that snowballed as more and more people provided input. 

“It really started with Jonathan and a few of the other teachers thinking, how can we support our students in the here and now as things are transpiring across the country?” Annear said. “It started with, can they find a way to express themselves? How can we connect with them? How can we see them and let them know that we’re still a resource for them? And so we started talking about doing some chalk art. That sounds good. And then it kind of got moving forward a little bit more in terms of can we have speakers? How do we organize that? How do we do that? So my role has been to kind of connect those dots and, you know, let them do their thing. 

Edward Little High School staff and students held Chalk and Talk in the high school parking area in Auburn on Friday for Juneteenth. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“It’s a great partnership between the staff and the students,” Annear said. “It was an opportunity for them to do something and for us let them know that we’re here for them — we’re here for the community and we just want to make sure that people are staying safe and hearing an important message. As part of that, everyone’s learning.” 

The event was a fluid one, meaning people came and went for hours. By 5 p.m., in spite of lingering heat, the crowd had swelled to roughly 30 people. 

By that time, several images had been scrawled in chalk over the hot pavement in the parking lot: clenched fists, a depiction of George Floyd and messages such as “Make art not war,” “skin color shouldn’t be a death sentence” and “Black Lives Matter” drawn in a variety of styles and colors. 

All in keeping, organizers said, with the spirit of Juneteenth. 

“This is a day to celebrate that,” said Dane Morgan in a video shot during the event, “while knowing there’s still much more work to be done.”

Edward Little High School staff and students held a Chalk and Talk event in the high school parking area in Auburn on Friday for Juneteenth. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


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