Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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June 17, 2013

Juneteenth festivities to celebrate history, local residents, leaders

CHEROKEE COUNTY — Rob Hollis has one goal in mind when celebrating Juneteenth this year in Jacksonville.

"I want to motivate our community to care," he said.

The Jacksonville resident, who is helping to organize Juneteenth festivities for the city, said the holiday will "honor leaders in our neighborhoods, honor teachers, honor residents, honor people doing good."

Juneteenth, traditionally celebrated on June 19, is the name given to emancipation day by African-Americans in Texas. On June 19, 1865 Union Major-General Gordon Granger issued a statement of General Orders No.3 to the people of Galveston. It read:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

In Jacksonville, Juneteenth will be celebrated on June 22. In Rusk, it will be celebrated on June 15.

"We hope that by having our celebration (a week later), we'll get more participation," Hollis said.

The June 22 celebration will be called the 5th-annual Gospel Fest and Family Fun Day in Lincoln Park.

It will kick off with a parade at 9:15 a.m. at the Old Elberta School on Lincoln Street and process through the neighborhood, ending back at Lincoln Park.

The day will include live music by Pooca Leroy, a "rap champion" from Dallas, and Shaun Ward, an R&B artist from Houston.

The festivities will also include a talent show, a car show, giveaways, and an inflatable water slide for the kids. An after-party will be held at Bottoms Up on East Rusk Street starting at 8 p.m.

"It's going to be a great day," Hollis said. "The mayor and the council members will be there as well."

Elder Waldell Stallings will be a guest speaker at the event, which will also feature the presentation of a Certificate of Appreciation to Veronica Hunter in honor of her late brother, Stacy Hunter, who was slain last October.

Last year's event drew almost 350 people and Hollis hopes to have double that this year.

"The artists and the speakers will bring a nice crowd for us this year," Hollis said. "It'll get people to be involved."

To him, Juneteenth is an opportunity to "keep a tradition going" and to carry on community involvement.

In Rusk, a parade and a  program will mark the Juneteenth celebration, according to Bob Goldsberry, executive director of the Rusk Chamber of Commerce.

The parade will line up behind Austin Bank in Rusk between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m. today and it will start at 11 a.m. downtown and will end at The I. C. Conley Park on Reeder Street. State, county, and local elected officials and the public are invited to participate in the parade  Churches, and organizations including riding clubs are invited to enter cars, trucks, floats, horses and bicycles. 

"We invite you to join in with us in celebrating this important event in the history of Texas," Goldsberry said.   

The annual program will begin immediately after the parade and will be held inside Mt. Pleasant CME Church, next door to the park.  Emerson Griffin, Post Commander of Rusk VFW Post #3406, will be one of the speakers, along with Ceron Ford John Tyler High School 2013 graduate.  He is the recipient of the Bill Gates 2013 Scholarship to Baylor University in the amount of one million dollars.

Ceron will be attending dental school at Baylor after getting his bachelor's degree.  

Refreshments will be served in the park immediately after the program.

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