Sunday, July 3, 2022

Freedom Ties

June 19, 2022 by  
Filed under Community

The organizer of Las Vegas’ signature Juneteenth celebration reflects on the meaning of the holiday, connecting with our community, and the future of activism. 

After generations on the periphery of American attention, Juneteenth is now a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. and honor the richness of African-American culture. 

The celebration in Las Vegas is on the verge of becoming legendary, and for the second consecutive year will be organized by community advocate Stretch Sanders and his Stretch for Change Foundation. Set for Saturday, June 25, this year’s Juneteenth event will feature over 40 vendors, captivating entertainment, and keynote speakers. It will be held at 2428 North MLK Boulevard from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

For Sanders, being the force behind the signature local celebration does not mean he wants to be the only game in town. “I think there should be many Juneteenth events across the Las Vegas Valley because it is our true [Independence Day],” he said. “We are having our Juneteenth celebration at the end of June so that I and my family can also enjoy the many Juneteenth celebrations around the valley. It’s a celebration for everyone.” 

Sanders was first featured in Black Image several years ago, in a profile entitled “Birth of an Activist.” He has since organized events, protests, and public forums to deliver positive change for the disadvantaged in Southern Nevada. 

But serious challenges have resulted from Sanders’ activism, and he is now in the process of recalibrating his approach. “Activism in Southern Nevada has been impactful, but there is also a heavy price to pay.” he said. “I have lost relationships, I have lost experiences, I have lost jobs and opportunities. I just want to give myself time to heal from that. When you are steadily taking hits and blows from some community people questioning your integrity, character, and not supporting you due to your activism — it doesn’t give you a safe place. You get hit and you still have to keep going.” 

For those reasons, Sanders is planning a two-year sabbatical away from his activist activities — to focus on family (“now I am a father of a one-year-old”), pursue more educational opportunities, and create a new plan for economic empowerment. 

“One of the greatest things I have done with my activism work in the community is to inspire others to make activism a lifestyle — and I think that was a good thing,” he said. “One thing that I have learned is to … make activism a part of your routine and to not neglect your life. I think we have dynamic leaders out here who are doing the best they can. I enjoyed taking groceries to those in need, but I would much rather show people how to get their own groceries. I enjoyed taking clothes to people, but I would much rather show people a way to buy their own clothes. This will be a part of my new approach to help our community.” 

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