Peaceful event on June 19 will honor lives lost, shine light on experiences of Somerset’s black community

In an effort to promote unity and peaceful discussion as communities around the nation stand up against racial injustice, the City of Somerset has partnered with the Youth of Somerset group to host a public charette.

Planned in celebration of Juneteenth on Friday, June 19, two of the event’s organizers, Kathy Townsend and JaKaye Garth, said the date is a fitting choice, as it is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

Hosted from 6-8 p.m. on the Judicial Center Plaza downtown, the charette — a gathering that unites people to resolve conflict and map solutions — will include messages from community members and leaders, inspirational music, poetry readings and a plan for future programs and events.

Garth said in addition to honoring lives lost due to police brutality, the charette will help shine a light on experiences of the black community in Somerset.

“We ultimately want to introduce goals and actions we can take as a community to learn from our past and move forward to our future,” Garth said.

Townsend, who also leads the Healthy Somerset initiative, said organizers want to promote open dialogue and improve representation and involvement in the community in a peaceful, uplifting way. The event is not a protest or march, she said, and there has been no communication from protest groups with plans to attend.

“We want to enhance our minds, bodies and spirits and unite in caring for one another,” Townsend said. “This event is all about unity, it’s about coming together to listen and support each other so we can ensure everyone feels loved and respected.”

The charette’s lineup of speakers includes Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, Pulaski County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley, Somerset Police Chief William Hunt and Somerset-Pulaski Chamber of Commerce Finance Director Rikiyah Pryor, as well as a host of community members who will share their talents and experiences.

Hunt said he hopes the event will help build upon an already positive relationship between community members and the police. Building and fostering this relationship is a crucial part of Somerset Police Department’s commitment to community-oriented policing, he said, an initiative that promotes law enforcement and residents working together to make the city safer and stronger.

“Somerset Police Department will never reach its full potential without the trust and support of our community,” Hunt said. “We are committed to listening and being visible in Somerset, not only reacting swiftly in difficult times but also seeking to be part of the solution for making Somerset the best it can be.”

Keck reiterated that the Juneteenth charette is a peaceful event intended to bring people together to learn from one another.

“I am looking forward to talking with folks about how we can support one another and dedicate ourselves to building relationships, not destroying them,” Keck said. “That is how we can truly light up Somerset — by being united.”

For more information about the event contact Townsend at [email protected] or view the event on Facebook.