Violence a Thing of the Past at Juneteenth

June 16, 2013 Updated Jun 16, 2013 at 11:20 PM EDT

By Allen Leight

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June 16, 2013 Updated Jun 16, 2013 at 11:20 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - It's a celebration of African history and culture and of an end to slavery in America.

"When they come to this festival, you get to see such a wide range of different things. You get to hear the drums, you get to see so many different things. Not only that, just so many of our people come together," said Kay Taylor, Chair of Arts and Culture for the Juneteenth Festival.

"This is the 3rd largest festival in America, the Juneteenth festival here. It is that way because all of the cultural communities, all the different communities work together to show the world what's special about Buffalo," added Ras Jomo Akono, Executive VP for the festival.

But in years past, visitors to the Juneteenth Festival became used to experiencing something else.

Violence.

"That has changed. The mindset has changed for our community to make this one of the safest events in the nation," says Murray Holman of Stop the Violence Coalition.

The history of violence at the festival has become just that. History. Without any incident of violence in the past five years.

So how has one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the world, being celebrated in what Forbes ranked one of the top 10 most dangerous cities in America, manage to get turned around? Organizers say it's the people in the community.

"People are tired. We're not going to let the riff-raff, like Channel 7 used to say, we're not letting pistol-packing punks come and take over," said Holman

And for those who attended the festival for the first time, it shows.

"Very good police presence. Everyone has been very friendly, very great. It's been really, really nice, a great time. I definitely will make it a point to come back again," said Victoria King, who made the trip from Rochester.

But reality and perception are two different things and festival leaders are working hard to convince the public that it's a safe place to be.

"These stigmas don't have anything to do with reality. You have to see it for yourself. Women and children, people are here. They are coming from all over," says Akono.

And on this Father's day, community leaders are calling on the men to continue the positive change and to make sure the peace continues.

"We need more men to be able to step-up and take the responsibility for their young men, for their children. It starts at home," says Lamont Thomas from Greater Refuge Temple.