Duluth community comes together to heal from racial injustice

The “Black Joy, Healing and Liberation Community Event and Vigil” on Thursday featured performances and events.

Daniel Oyinloye of Duluth holds his 18-month-old son Jahleel Oyinloye as he performs a poem with Sandra Oyinloye on the steps of City Hall during Black Joy, Healing and Liberation: A Community Event and Vigil Thursday, April 22, 2021 at the Civic Center in Duluth. (Clint Austin /
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Crowds of people gathered in downtown Duluth on Thursday night to provide a safe place for community healing after the recent guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial and the funeral of Daunte Wright.

“Black Joy, Healing and Liberation Community Event and Vigil” was held at Duluth City Hall and the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial from roughly 5 to 9 p.m.

The night's events and vigil were organized by Duluth company DanSan Creatives in collaboration with various local organizations and performers.


“So many Black people ... have lost their lives,” DanSan Creatives co-founder Sandra Oyinloye said. “We’re still facing a lot of racial trauma.”

Organizers said the event took about two days to plan, and that precautions were taken regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

They explained that the event was meant to bring people of all races and ages together to recognize and heal the pain felt from racial injustices and disparities.

Energy was high throughout the evening, with the event featuring spoken word and musical performances by local Black artists, as well as Black vendor booths, a raffle, a community mural and a candlelight vigil.

Both venues saw a decent turnout, with crowds gathered throughout the night.

Event organizer Breanna Ellison explained that the goal of “Black Joy, Healing and Liberation” was to provide multiple ways for people to connect with one another and find healing.


She shared that vigils can often be emotionally tolling for people of color who have experienced multiple deaths in their communities. Instead, she said that this event was meant to provide alternative community events, as well as a vigil.

“I love it,” local vendor Jasmine Flowers said. “It’s so so real … I wish we could (do) stuff like this more.”

Throughout the course of the evening, people shared messages about racism and other issues through spoken word and song, with a total of seven performers taking the stage at City Hall.

“This is something that I was born to do,” local performer Quita said.

Quita began her activism last year by helping to organize protests following the killing of George Floyd. She performed multiple poems at Thursday’s event centered around her experiences as a Black person.

“I have to do this, because I’m fighting for my life,” she said.

Following performances at City Hall, people were invited to attend a candlelight vigil at the CJM memorial, where more speakers and musicians addressed the audience.

Violinist Ren Cooper of the Duluth band “One Less Guest,” and Anishinaabe musician and educator Lyz Jaakola performed, while Ellison, a local preacher, and DanSan co-founder Daniel Oyinloye took turns speaking.


There was a moment of silence, followed by Daniel Oyinloye inviting the crowd to join him in song through “This Little Light of Mine.”

Duluth resident and performer Levi Staine said he felt the event had an overall positive impact, sharing that any event that brings the community together in a non-harmful way is good.

The event did not see any violent actions and there was minimal law enforcement presence.

Ellison ended the night by challenging the audience: “What are you doing to combat anti-Blackness?”

Izabel Johnson
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