COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A celebration of freedom and equality is just days away.

One group of criminal justice professionals, students and community leaders are making the final touches on an event to commemorate just that.

Organizers from the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, Ohio Chapter-Columbus Affiliate said June 19 represents freedom delayed. They said what happened to George Floyd and countless others represents justice delayed, and it is more important than ever before to acknowledge Juneteenth

Genoa Park in downtown Columbus would normally see large crowds on Juneteenth — a large crowd of black Americans with joy in their hearts, celebrating when they were truly declared free on June 19, 1865, two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed that.

And now, this day takes on an even greater meaning to the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, Ohio Chapter.

​“Our National president issued a called to action spurred by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd,” said Roger Wilson, chairman of the Columbus affiliate of the organization. “There have been others since then, sadly, but we were asked to commemorate this.”

There will be what some can consider a dual commemoration at Bicentennial Park, where someone will read out the history of Juneteenth.

“And a memorial type atmosphere over the beating of African drums, which in the African culture, symbolizes a respect for the dead,” Wilson said. 

“I think the deaths of Ahmad and George Floyd have lighted a passion of folks who would normally be on the sidelines and watching others fight the fight,” Wilson added. “So that’s the biggest change. That more people have been moved. More empathy and compassion toward the cause of equality than I believe we ever had.”

And this organizer hopes that continues, but he said he realizes there are some who will continue to live in their own world, not caring about the black American experience.

​“There’s never any new learning, never any enlightenment,” Wilson said. “When people have new learning and enlightenment, then they grow. When they refuse to accept that, they stay stagnant. They will not change.”

The commemoration kicks off At Bicentennial Park Friday at 7 p.m.