By Kasy Long
Jun 12, 2023
2006 Sociology and History Alumnus
James Webb provides a voice for those unheard. The 2006 sociology and history alumnus, as executive director and co-founder of Indy Juneteenth, Inc., has championed Indiana residents’ embrace of their history and culture since 2016. Webb founded Indy Juneteenth alongside his wife, Twjonia Webb, a 2004 alumna.
Indy Juneteenth, Inc. has one mission: to bring communities together. The not-for-profit organization strives to improve the quality and narrative of life around the Black community in Indiana. This is accomplished through unique events and programs designed to celebrate freedom, including the annual Juneteenth celebration and parade, scheduled for Saturday, June 17 at Indianapolis’s Military Park.
The parade begins at 10 a.m. and the celebration begins at noon. The celebration is free and open to the public.
Juneteenth commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States, marking the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to ensure all enslaved people would be freed. This arrival occurred two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. For more than two years, the slaves in Galveston had no idea they had been freed.
In 2021, Juneteenth was declared an official federal holiday to honor the longest-running African American holiday.
“Many people still don’t know what Juneteenth is and why we celebrate it every year. Our festival informs everyone about the holiday, and we’re creating unity in Indiana,” says Webb.
Indianapolis’s Juneteenth festival is a week-long event with something for everyone: live music; live theater re-enactments, including a re-enactment of Frederick Douglass reciting passages on slavery; outdoor games; trivia games; an amateur boxing tournament; a book fair; a college and career fair; vendors; and cultural food prepared by Black chefs, including red velvet cake and hibiscus lemonade.
The festival will feature music by Hoosier artists and bands, including Be On It, Dwani, Ground Zero, KOM Band, DJ Mary Jane, Terrance Anderson, and Lorea Turner.
The festival concludes with a fireworks show on Juneteenth (June 19).
“I want everyone to know they are welcome to attend the festival. Everyone is welcome and invited. Juneteenth is an American holiday, and we all have the right to celebrate the holiday together,” Webb remarks.
When he’s not helping plan the annual Juneteenth festival in Indianapolis, Webb remains busy throughout the year with other outreach programs through Indy Juneteenth, Inc. The organization hosts smaller events, including a Miss Indy Juneteenth scholarship pageant, mentorship programs, and food drives. These events help teach discipline and valuable learning skills to teenagers and young adults in Indianapolis.
Webb credits his education at Indiana State for allowing him to make connections with his professors, classmates, and community members. For his history degree, the Sycamore created documentaries that made history more exciting to study.
Webb remembers these projects as he makes Juneteenth an exciting, intriguing holiday for Indiana residents. Through his academics at Indiana State, he learned more about how to use history to educate people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
“At Indiana State, I learned that I can achieve any goal I set for myself,” Webb shares. If he could accomplish his goals as a young adult, Webb explained, he could only imagine what he might achieve as he gained more professional experience.
“Indiana State opened doors for me. I loved being a student in Terre Haute. I would do anything for my beloved alma mater,” he adds.
Inspiring others to appreciate their cultural history requires passion and dedication. And Webb never lacks passion for educating others about Juneteenth and topics related to African American history. He and Twjonia are creating a celebration that will make an impact in Indianapolis and across the state of Indiana. Because real game-changers wear BLUE!