People of all ages gathered in Jack Kilby Square on Saturday to celebrate Juneteenth. This celebration is the oldest celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.
“This is an important event for the community,” event leader Bernice Gray said. “We will celebrate all of the month of June. We want to bring the community together for the celebration of this year’s theme which is “life, love and community,”
This year’s keynote speaker was Darrell Pope, president of the Hutchinson branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. There was also music, dancers, food, a drill team and young leaders, arts and crafts, storytellers, poets, children’s activities, talent performers, a cake walk and sales booths. Plenty of activities for people of all ages.
Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is an American holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas, and more generally the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans throughout the former Confederacy of the southern United States. Its name is a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth”, the date of its celebration. Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in forty-five states.
Today it is observed primarily in local celebrations. Traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, and reading of works by noted African-American writers such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. Celebrations may include rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, or Miss Juneteenth contests. The Mascogos, descendants of Black Seminoles, of Coahuila, Mexico also celebrate Juneteenth.
In 1979 Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. Leading the charge was Rep. Al Edwards of Houston, often referred to as “the father of the Juneteenth holiday,” who framed it as a “source of strength” for young people, according to Hayes Turner.
Since then, 41 other states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday or holiday observance.
“This is similar to what God instructed Joshua to do as he led the Israelites into the Promised Land,” Al Edwards told Yahoo in 2007. “A national celebration of Juneteenth, state by state, serves a similar purpose for us. Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.”