Residents in Waxahachie will honor the abolishment of slavery prior to the state holiday, Juneteenth.
On June 19, which is the officially declared holiday, a dedication and unveiling ceremony will occur among the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People local chapter 6240 and the City of Waxahachie at Lee Penn Park.
On June 16, the NAACP is hosting a parade and gathering at Lee Penn Park to honor "the past and marching to the future,” said Betty Square Coleman, the president of the NAACP 6240 branch.
“We want to encourage everybody, especially our youth to come out there and enjoy the day,” Coleman advocated. “We want to make sure everybody leaves there with more knowledge than they had about Juneteenth, and how to be a better person in the future.”
Parade floats will line up at 10 a.m. and will begin promptly at 11 a.m. Decorated floats and vehicles will make their way around the east side of Waxahachie and conclude at Lee Penn Park.
The program begins with a prayer followed by an insightful message about the history of Juneteenth delivered by Ronald Livingston.
Livingston is a local activist who also worked in Palmer and Dallas ISD as a principal. “He and his wife have been instrumental in helping the local youth move forward,” Coleman elaborated.
Anyone candidates running for office will be recognized and an allotted time will be given for those running for office or who are currently in office to speak at the event as well.
“Anyone is welcome to set up a booth or table,” Coleman shared. “We call it a laid back day in the park. It’s people coming in and floating through, reminiscing with one another.”
A free lunch will be served around noon. For the kids, there will be a DJ, clown, bounce houses, and the pool will be open. The NAACP also plans to host a t-ball game for the kiddos.
“It’s food, fellowship, and fun,” Coleman emphasized. “We have something for everybody. We want to make it a big picnic in the park. We want to make this a great usage of the new facilities at Lee Penn Park.”
“Right now it's about how we can help together and help this community,” Coleman advocated. “God put us here for a reason, and our country is a melting pot of people on purpose and so no matter what your color or your walk of life — we’ve all been instrumental in what America is today.”
Curtis Polk Jr. is heading the parade. If interested in joining, he can be reached at 469-222-5669 or email the local NAACP chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Tuesday, June 19, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance social activity-committee will dedicate a monument at Lee Penn Park at 11 a.m.
“The purpose is to unveil a monument for three former community leaders. Matter of fact, these guys were pioneers,” Jesse Gibson, member of IMA, said.
These men include Bill Lacy, George Brown and James Waters who were instrumental in setting up the basketball court at the park back in the early 1950s. They were community leaders and mentors to the youth. The men also received a building from some farmland and had it relocated on the park property, which was used as a youth center until 2013.
“They were part of a group called the Regular Fellows and that is what they did that was significant to the community at that time,” Gibson elaborated.
HISTORY OF JUNETEENTH
Juneteenth honors the eradication of American slavery and is a state holiday in Texas.
On June 19, 1865, the Union general Gordon Granger issued a proclamation that all slaves were free. This included the equality of personal rights and rights of property. The freed slaves were advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages.
The message of freedom reached approximately 250,000 slaves in Texas.
“The first broader celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies and to teach freed African Americans about their voting rights,” according to the online Texas Handbook.
Juneteenth celebrations then declined in the early 1960s when the civil rights movement was taking place. Over time the state holiday revitalized in focusing on the interest of cultural heritage, according to the Texas Handbook.
“Representative Al Edwards, a Democrat from Houston, introduced a bill calling for Juneteenth to become a state holiday,” according to the Texas Handbook. In 1979, Governor William P. Clements Jr. signed it into law, and the first state-sponsored Juneteenth celebration took place the following year.
“Today, 39 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth, although most do not grant it full ‘holiday’ status,” according to the Smithsonian.
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450