Residents in Waxahachie will honor the abolishment of slavery Wednesday on the Juneteenth state holiday.
In celebration, a communitywide picnic will be held by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People local chapter 6240 at Lee Penn Park.
The laid back gathering is 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."
A free lunch will be served around 11 a.m. Live music will provide entertainment and the pool will be open.
"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 added. "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."
The festivities continue from 3-8 p.m. Saturday at Penn Park with a second communitywide picnic. Beverages will be available, grilled food will be served, and guests are encouraged to bring a dish.
"We are going to give back to the community," said Ellis County Pct. 3 constable Curtis Polk Jr., who is spearheading the event.
R&B music and blues entertainment will be provided in addition to a DJ.
Polk is currently waiting to hear from the City of Waxahachie Parks and Recreation to confirm if the baseball and softball fields can be used to for kickball games.
"For one, it's a day to remember the history of Juneteenth and it's also a plus for everyone to come for fellowship with each other so we can grow our community here," Polk said.
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.