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LYNN — Ten days ago, Darrell Jones, 52, was released from the prison system after being confined for 32 years. He took a $70 Uber ride to Lynn on Saturday so he could share his story with attendees of the 3rd Annual Juneteenth Celebration.
Jones was released from jail in 2017, after being found not guilty in a murder retrial. He was one of many speakers and performers at the annual event, which celebrates the end of slavery. Beating out the predicted rain, Juneteenth Family Fun Day was all day at IronBound North Shore Neighborhood on Mount Vernon Street.
“Be aware of this issue because that could’ve been your son or grandson,” Jones said to the crowd. “I can’t forget what happened in there. I can’t forget the hours and days I spent in solitary.”
The Chicago native said he was taken into the system at the age of 18 after being charged in Boston for the murder of Guillermo Rodriguez, a man whose face he said he went 28 years without seeing. Jones said he never knew Rodriguez, and no one showed him a picture of what he looked like.
“You tell your community leaders to go into the prisons and see for themselves what’s going on in there,” said Jones.
The keynote speaker continued with his motivational speech which gained roars from the audience members. He spoke about how the media has a tendency to chase the murder stories but not follow through regarding the defendants’ cases. He also said his trial was named “Commonwealth vs. Darrell Jones” and explained that the commonwealth is “you,” meaning the people of the state.
“Call your district attorneys and tell them ‘Don’t put someone away in my name,'” he said.
Jones was not the only star of the event. While his words resonated with community members, there was also a performance. Ammaya Dance & Drum brought original African American drums, and an instructor, Tara Murphy, to guide those attending in participating in the performance.
Nicole Mcclain, the event’s organizer, said the community-driven performance was the perfect way to celebrate Juneteenth and demonstrate everyone’s freedom to be a part of something.
“This event is important because it enriches the Lynn community,” Mcclain said. “There are a lot of very diverse cultures in this city. Today we are able to show the positive aspects of the African American culture.”
Mcclain said the celebration’s turnout was humbling and she was grateful for everyone who showed up and supported it. The event was a “labor of love” and she said she was ecstatic at how many community members wanted to be a part of it.
Attendees also enjoyed live art by Boston-based artist Zahirah Truth, food from Across the Border Food Truck, local vendors selling cultural apparel, and a number of stands with representatives from community organizations.
“It’s exciting, this is the third year of the event,” said Mayor Thomas M. McGee as he walked around and enjoyed the family fun event. “Today has offered a good vibe and everyone, from younger to older, has come out to enjoy it. It’s great to see this event continue to grow each year.”