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Bringing the Juneteenth Culture to Fargo

Happy June!

As we get ready to welcome the summer solstice, I wanted to connect with someone who irradiates love in the community… Frederick Edwards Jr:

Fred has his master’s degree in Educational Leadership from NDSU. Fred is a community engagement specialist, motivational speaker, community educator, program coordinator and spoken word artist from North Minneapolis. The things he has seen speak through him with the energy he provides. He has spoken to hundreds of college, high school and middle school students. Fred provides testimonies and stories of struggle and resiliency. With nine brothers and sisters, Fred is the tenth and last child. Before he was born, his mother had her tubes tied—she had a .0001% chance of becoming pregnant after her last child. Fred was that .0001%. Fred thoroughly believes he is a spiritual being having a human experience.

I hope to see you at the Juneteenth celebration!

Peace & Love!

Where do you call home?

Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was born and raised on the northside but developed my appreciation and respect for different cultures on the southside. Every other block, there is a church and a liquor store. You can find some of the best food here, ranging from Italian beefs, sambusas to cassava leaves to fried chicken and gyros to soul food and vegan dishes. When I was growing up, drug raids, absent parents and crime were prevalent. Additionally, there was significant talent, culture and a willingness to fight generational curses common to many inner-city neighborhoods like mine.

The Story of your passion for giving to your community?

My father is an apostle, and I grew up in church. I always remember seeing different international faith-based communities and cultures. Especially in the inner city, there were indigenous Christian rappers and Orthodox Ethiopian Christians, Hebrew Israelites, The Nation of Islam and so forth. My parents moved to Chicago, IL when I was 16, so I lived with my big sister Klairissa in a condo in the Midtown Global Market. Downstairs was a vibrant culture showcased in this marketplace through the way of food, art, produce and international entertainment. The real-time experience allowed me to gain a better understanding of different cultures and their traditions.

Share about June 19, 1865.

When I think of Juneteenth growing up, it was a time to celebrate African Americans who fought to save the Union and liberate themselves from generations of chattel slavery. Juneteenth continues to be a day in which Black families and communities come together in the spirit of jubilation and liberation to honor the brave fight of our ancestors and a longstanding tradition of Black resilience.

Now I’m seeing it become slightly commercialized to bring all Americans together to celebrate our common bond of freedom through recognition, observance and education.

What are some misconceptions on this historical date?

Texas was the last state to allow chattel slavery after the Civil War enslavement. The emancipation was not announced in the last state practicing enslavement until Major General Granger landed in Galveston, Texas and issued General Orders No. 3. Two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation chattel slavery was still happening. What this tells me is that Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had very little power to free slaves in the confederacy.

Secondly, we never discuss the 29th Colored Troops who defeated Robert E. Lee and traveled to Galveston Texas with General Granger.

Can you share some of the work you do in the community? How can people get involved?

I currently work at Youthworks (YW) located here in Fargo, ND. I am a program coordinator for the street outreach program, a case manager for the Youth Cultural Achievement Program and Co-Founder of Umoja Writing Workshops powered through YW. I am also able to volunteer writing workshops at the West Regional Detention center a few times a month. I am the founder of Freds Dissonance where we do sober fun and cultural events in Fargo, ND.

If people want to get involved, they can follow me on my social or check out the website, or come to an event.

As a community leader, what is the next problem you are trying to solve?

I see myself as someone who has been surrounded by a lot of amazing people. During the pandemic, a lot of people struggled with mental health, money and loving themselves. I felt division my entire life, but I felt families and loved ones get divided. My biggest things right now are helping people feel like they belong and matter. I want to help build a platform to help people heal through art. Poetry and writing saved my life and I’m watching it positively impact the youth I work with. I want Umoja to expand to impact not only Fargo Public schools, but West Fargo and Moorhead Schools.

I see Youthworks providing a various number of services for youth and their families. We have a 24/7 crisis line. We help and support our under-served youth. It is my hope we continue to grow and get the support and funding needed to help those in tough situations. I’ve seen my organization save lives and change people for the better.

What is your vision for 2030 for the Fargo-Moorhead community?

Fargo, ND, is the 4th largest growing city in America. Ten years ago, Black residents made up 2.7% of Fargo residencies. In 2020, Black residents made up 8.8% of Fargo’s ND population. I want us to be the fastest-growing city in America that not only accepts culture but cultivates and creates spaces for it to grow. I want the residents of Fargo to assist each other in healing, sharing ideas and building a common agenda for change. Together, we are generating sustainable progress that propels diverse people groups’ prosperity and well-being in the end. I would love there to be a Global Market in Fargo, ND by 2030 that hosts the largest cultural events, and of course Fargo Juneteenth 2030.

Written by Alexandre Cyusa

Alexandre Cyusa came to the FM area in the fall of 2010 to attend Concordia College. Originally from Kigali, Rwanda, Cyusa has lived in Switzerland, Ethiopia, Guinea and France. His traveling experiences have helped him in making this world a smaller and simpler place to live in. He currently works for Folkways and is interested in community development and nurturing global citizenship.

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