Arlington's Juneteenth Celebration Pays Tribute To City's Unsung Heroes | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Arlington's Juneteenth Celebration Pays Tribute To City's Unsung Heroes

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By Cathy Carter

June 19th is a day when some African-Americans commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. Tomorrow's Juneteenth celebration in Arlington, Virginia will honor several of it's most prominent black citizens.

Back in the early '90s, the Highview Park section of Arlington was overrun with drug dealers. That's when James Pelham stepped into organize a neighborhood watch, and that's why he's being recognized.

Every night Pelham and dozens of residents would patrol the streets. If someone was buying drugs, they wrote down plate numbers and gave them to police. Often Pelham would confront the dealers directly.

"'If you keep messing with us I'm gonna come by and throw rocks through your window," the offenders would tell Pelham. "I told them 'go ahead, I'll have 'em fixed, I'll put another one in,'" he says. "'We might do this to your van;' I told 'em go ahead, I have insurance I'll get another one," he says.

It took five years, but eventually the dealers and their customers cleared out.

"A lot of guys ,I won't call them by their names, they went to jail and served 10, 15 years," he says. "So now the neighborhood is back like it used to be."

The Juneteenth tribute will take place tomorrow at Arlington's Walter Reed Recreation Center.

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