It was a day of honoring those who endured, so that today’s generations could experience freedom. As the community gathered at Penn Park in Waxahachie to celebrate Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, event coordinator Betty Square Jefferson hoped it would convey a message to all ages.

“Today is a day of celebration,” Jefferson said. “We’re out here to commemorate this special day. We need to remember what those before us have gone through so we could get here today. It’s not about throwing stones or being ugly, it’s about learning where we can go.”

The day’s activities kicked off at 11 a.m. with dominoes being played, kids enjoying bounce houses and camaraderie being shared much like at a family reunion. Waxahachie City Councilor Chuck Beatty was doing his best to come out on the winning end with the tiles, but he was really there to enjoy the fellowship.

“I remember growing up decorating my bicycle, riding in the parades, eating the food and drinking the red soda water ” Beatty said. “Everyone was involved, and it looks like this is what it’s getting back to.

“But we need to remember from which we came,” he said. “It’s about remembering Abraham Lincoln and him signing the Emancipation Proclamation and freeing the slaves. I’ve thought about my grandfather and some of those like him who were not that far removed from slavery. In fact, he (his grandfather) worked himself to death, but ended up becoming a landowner.”  

Beatty added that he hopes these contributions will be heeded by the younger generation.

“I know that some people move away, but some don’t take care of their land, and it ends up on the sheriff’s sale,” Beatty said. “That land has been in the family for generations, and I hope these younger people will pay attention to this.”  

Buck Jordan, the city’s current mayor, also stopped by to take in the day’s events. Jordan was especially mesmerized by the music of Aaron Greenwood, a blind singer and piano player. The raspy blues singer’s performance had the attention of the crowd, and it was evident that Jordan was glad he was sharing in the moment.

“It’s a great day for everybody in Waxahachie to get together and show their support,” Jordan said. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

He added that seeing the changes that have taken place since he has been a Waxahachie resident continue to inspire him.

“We think that Waxahachie is moving in a positive direction,” Jordan said. “It means a lot to all of us to come down here and celebrate like this, no question about it.”

 Another event goer was Virgil Derrough. Being part of Juneteenth has been a tradition for him during his 72 years.  

“I’m here for this get together because it’s a day of importance for black people,” Derrough said. “The things that we can all pick up at a celebration like this is very important. It’s a part of history that doesn’t need to be forgotten.   

The Jones cousins stopped by to experience the special day, and as the two talked about their reasons for being here, it was evident they knew the meaning behind this historic day.

Ten-year-old Jaydn was the first to shout out her answer.

“It’s about freedom,” Jaydn said. “You can find it in books, you can look it up, but most of the time I think of Martin Luther King on Freedom Day.”

 Jashaveron, also 10 years old agreed.

“It’s important because it’s about freedom,” Jashaveron said. “Being free from being slaves is what it’s all about.”

Makayla Davis added to those ideas.

“I think Juneteenth is important because it freed us from our slavery,” Makayla said. “I’m very proud to be a part of our culture, and it’s all about freedom.”

Waxahachie sixth grader Chris Davis was also proud to be a part of this Freedom Day celebration.

“I’m out here to celebrate the day of freedom,” Chris said. “We can actually go to the stores we want, and there’s no such thing that white people can’t be with black people. And, Hispanics, everybody, we can all go to the same school.”  

David Donalson, another Waxahachie resident in attendance said that this celebration represents a legacy that must be passed on to the younger generations.

“It is our job to continue to remind the younger generation about our black history,” Donalson said. “It gives us a chance to come together and remember where we’ve come from. It is also an opportunity to instill love and not hold grudges as we progress in our world.”

Donalson stressed that it is the hope of each generation for the next one to do better.

“My son graduated a few years ago, and he told me that he didn’t think he was going to go to college. I asked him to just give it two years before he gave up on the idea. Would you believe he just finished junior college, and he’s going to continue?

“And, you know that inspires me to go back and get my education,” he said. “Even though I dropped out, I’m about to drop back in. I’m a veteran, and there are grants out there for me to do this, which is also a sign of where our country has progressed.”

As the afternoon continued, and Jefferson was able to take a break and reflect, she breathed a sigh of relief.

“This is absolutely what it’s all about,” Jefferson said. “Seeing all of these folks come together like this is amazing. It is a time of celebration you know. There was time when education wasn’t free, and now everybody and their grandma is going. We need to push our young people to do better. We live in a country that has equality for all. There used to be a time when you were less than but not anymore.”

And, then Jefferson was immediately back to multi-tasking, helping little ones get their juices and handing out red sodas to the others. It was a day that exemplified how the sacrifices from the past can be transformed into a better tomorrow.

Contact Colleen at 469-517-1452 or colleen.horning@wninews.com