The lasting impressions of the June 16 gathering at the Booker T. Washington Community Center in Terre Haute should be the smiles and activities in celebration of the Juneteenth holiday.

Folks attending enjoyed a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, free food, a Gospel hour and a Black business expo, among other activities.

One mean, immature act following the celebration cannot erase all of the good, but it certainly harms the community spirit.

Juneteenth is an observance marking the day — June 19, 1865 — when a Union Army general and his 2,000 soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and informed 250,000 enslaved Black Americans in that state that slavery had been abolished. That news reached those Americans two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s historic Emancipation Proclamation and three months after Lincoln’s assassination. Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation had declared that “all persons held as slaves … henceforward shall be free.” It was not until Confederate commander Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union Army two years later that freedom actually came to those enslaved in Confederate states, such as Texas.

Juneteenth stands as an observance of America ending an abhorrent practice and moving closer to its founding principles of freedom for all. As civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth federal holiday into law in 2021. Every American can and should embrace Juneteenth’s meaning.

The despicable act in Terre Haute happened in the late hours of June 16 at the intersection of 13th Street and College Avenue, where the community center sits. A colorful Juneteenth mural, painted on the intersection’s pavement, got defaced. An individual or individuals in a vehicle moved aside barricades and drove onto the mural and squealed their tires, marring the image, which was funded by a charitable organization. It was later restored.

The painting’s defacement was not merely an act of vandalism. It involved ignorance, at the least. Hatred and bigotry were almost certainly involved, too. Terre Haute Mayor Brandon Sakbun aptly called the culprit out in a social media post. “To the grown man that felt the need to remove street barriers and do burnouts on top of a freshly painted cultural street painting — be better. Your efforts did nothing to hinder the Juneteenth celebrations. Your bigotry is a stain on our city and Hoosier values,” Sakbun said.

Terre Haute’s Human Relations Commission also condemned the vandalism in a statement issued Monday.

“Whether out of ignorance or hatred, we know that this destruction hurt and harmed many people in our community,” the commission’s statement read. The commission has met to discuss ways to “bring peace and justice to this situation.” The commission plans to work with the mural creators to file a police report and seek accountability through an investigation, call on state legislators to bolster Indiana’s weak hate crimes law, and continue programming to celebrate diverse cultures among Terre Haute residents.

Those who defaced the mural should be held accountable and, ideally, compelled to understand the depth of their actions and learn what Juneteenth stands for. The broader community should support vibrant celebrations of the holiday and other events that highlight the fabric of this city’s residents and history. The strength of our diversity, not a vandal’s ignorance and hate, should define Terre Haute.