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Warren warmly welcomed at Roxbury celebration

Peter Van Delft
Warren warmly welcomed at Roxbury celebration
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U.S. Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren joined members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity for a photo at the 16th Annual Roxbury Homecoming/Juneteenth celebration in Franklin Park. (Peter Van Delft photo)

 U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren shares a lighthearted moment with a member of the Johnson-Williams Family Reunion at the 16th Annual Roxbury Homecoming/Juneteenth celebration in Franklin Park. (Peter Van Delft photo)    (L-R): Ruth Atkins-Suber, Helen Credle and State Rep. Gloria Fox strike a pose at the Juneteenth celebration in Franklin Park on Saturday. (Tony Irving phot

As thousands of people clustered together over barbecue smokers, among sets of lawn chairs and under canopies in Franklin Park during the 16th Annual Roxbury Homecoming and Juneteenth celebration, a powerful sense of community and family wafted through the park.

This past Saturday, groups of families, friends and community-based organizations gathered to observe Juneteenth — the June 19,1865 emancipation of the last remaining slaves held in the United States — and to celebrate the black family, and the many hues and cultural branches that define its tree.

 With familiar faces and strangers alike invited to share each other’s food, drink and conversation, one particular first-time participant was greeted with the warmth and truth of family.

Walking among the crowd, Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, shook hands, shared stories and spoke about the motivation behind her campaign and her affinity for the crowd listening to her words.

 “I love coming out to events like this one because it’s fun,” said Warren. “You get to meet people who are good people. This is heart to heart. I come out and I get lots of hugs and I hear lots of people who say ‘you’re not in this alone, kid. We’re in this with you.’ And that’s what this campaign is about.”

“This campaign has never been about me,” she continued. “It’s about all of us here today at this celebration and it’s about people like us all around this Commonwealth and all around this country. They understand that President Obama is trying to build a future for us. I want to go to Washington to help him do that.”

For many, it was a message that resonated.

 “I got to walk around the Roxbury Homecoming and Juneteenth celebration with her, and she was universally well received,” said Tito Jackson, District 7’s City Council representative. “Many people really gave her high marks and encouraging words as far as her campaign. It was great to have her there to celebrate and to connect with community. I think she is a candidate who stands for the little guy and for making sure that we have a government that reflects and gives voice to those without a voice. A vote for Elizabeth Warren is a vote for President Obama. She’s a vote that gives him the help and backup that he needs to get his real agenda across.”

Sounding an ominous note about Warren’s opponent, incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown, entrepreneur Priscilla Douglas offered praise for Warren, but warned against taking this race lightly.

 “Warren has the courage of her convictions, has solid ethics and she is someone who will represent all of us in Congress,” Douglas said. “This is a very important election and this is an important vote to cast. Scott Brown does not represent us. He is not our friend. Don’t be fooled.”

While the sentiment surrounding Warren’s candidacy was overwhelmingly positive, there were some who voiced the desire to see more of both Warren and her agenda as it relates specifically to communities of color and those not quite included in the so-called “middle class.”

“When you tout the middle class, you also need to give us something that is palatable to our community,” said Donovan Walker, founder of the Developmental Neighborhood Coalition and longtime community advocate. “Black or white, rich, poor or middle class — we all vote. You are not being inclusive just because you label everyone as middle class. There is no way that Elizabeth Warren is going to be able to beat Scott Brown without minority participation. She needs to come into our communities and tell us what she stands for, and she needs to articulate what kinds of actions she’ll take to impact the lives of people in our community.”

Community activist and Democratic supporter Bruce Bickerstaff said the community has already seen what it has with Brown. “He’s shown that he has never made a real effort to reach out to us as a broad community,” Bickerstaff said. “People of the African Diaspora and in the Latino community would like to see an agenda that lays out some of the concerns that we have around health care, employment and training, the effects of CORI and other issues that affect us inordinately.”

 Though both Walker and Bickerstaff reiterated the call for more dialogue between the candidate and communities of color, each expressed confidence that the qualities and abilities that Warren possesses are the foundation of a strong Congressional advocate.

 “I trust that she comes from a good place in terms of her heart,” Bickerstaff stated. “She doesn’t need to become a ‘professional politician,’ we just need her to be a strong advocate on issues that directly impact our communities.”

Walker said Warren can win the election. “Let me be clear, she can win this seat, but her success is in her hands,” she said. “She is a viable candidate. Elizabeth Warren is not the kind of person who is going to play along to get along. She’s not going to be bullied. She will make a good senator, but she has to inspire registered voters to come out and vote.”

For more than a few in attendance such inspiration may have already struck.

 “Her words were the spark that ignited a fire in me,” said community advocate and Roxbury resident Hasib Shaikh. “She is a real advocate and she will help to bring back the funding that we need to address some of the needs that we have in our communities.”

 Echoing the same passion expressed to her by many of the day’s participants, Warren gave a glimpse into the engine that drives her candidacy.

 “This is just part of my heart,” Warren said. “This is just who I am. I grew up in a hardworking family. If our families don’t have real opportunities, then we don’t have a future. You might as well ask me why I breathe. It’s who I am.”