Thousands of people in the community turned out despite the rain to celebrate Black history, culture, and freedom for Flint, Michigan’s 2021 Juneteenth event, which included a tribute to Flint’s native daughter, Claressa Shields. Shields, a boxing champion turned MMA fighter, made an appearance that celebrated her accomplishments both inside and outside the ring.
Shields served as grand marshal for the Champions Parade, which was held as part of Flint’s citywide Juneteenth weekend – one of many celebrations scheduled this year. According to a city of Flint news release, this year marks the first time Juneteenth has been declared an official holiday in the city, and the celebrations are bigger than ever before.
Juneteenth commemorates African-American freedom and heritage. On June 19, it is celebrated in the United States as the day in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas, were freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
“I feel great, I’ve had celebrations before but none as big as this one. I think it’s deserved and overdue but I’m happy that it’s happening now and that everyone can like and appreciate my hard work and my accomplishments,” Shields said.
Shields led the Champions Parade after a victorious MMA debut this month via third-round TKO over Brittany Elkin in the PFL promotion. Thousands of onlookers and parade participants flocked to downtown Flint for the Claressa Shields appearance.
“We are so proud of Claressa Shields and all she has accomplished. Through hard work and perseverance, she has accomplished more than any other boxer — male or female — and she has stayed true to her roots. She remains committed to this community and we are so thankful,” said Mayor Sheldon Neeley.
At both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, the Flint native earned gold medals in boxing. Shields is also considered the world boxing champion in three different weight classes. She became the first boxer in the four-belt era to hold undisputed titles in two distinct weight divisions simultaneously after defeating Marie-Eve Dicaire this past March.
After the previous year, when Black issues were at the forefront of the national conversation and Juneteenth was finally declared a federal holiday, Shields stated that it made her happy to see more community members participating in the celebration.
“This Juneteenth is a lot different. Juneteenth is now a national holiday … me and my family never celebrated it. I just started celebrating it in the last two or three years. It being an official holiday means a lot,” said Shields.
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