Juneteenth celebrations planned in Rusk, J’ville

Upcoming Juneteenth celebrations in Cherokee County will commemorate the historic date of June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston and enforced the emancipation of slaves in the state.

“Everyone is invited to come together and celebrate our freedoms,” said Walter Session, a Rusk city council member and newspaper publisher who, with his wife Maxine, began the local Juneteenth tradition approximately 30 years ago.

This year's event is slated for Saturday, June 15, beginning with an 11 a.m. downtown parade, followed by a program at Mount Pleasant Church, 208 Reeder St., and celebration at I.C. Conley Park on Reeder Street, where a free picnic will be held.

“When it first started, (we) walked from downtown Rusk all the way to Conley Park, about a mile away,” he recalled. “We have a get-together, and we have a lot of fun, and a lot of people come – some are from out of town, here to celebrate (with the local community).”

The church program will feature a senior speaker and a youth speaker, while at the park, there will be entertainment and food, including grilled burgers, hot links, hot dogs and other assorted foods. “We just eat until we're full,” he laughed.

The annual celebration is a popular event, Session added. “We've been having good participation – a lot of elected officials show up, and we have a good time,” Session said. “We're inviting everyone to come by, say hello and join us at our picnic.”

The Rusk event is sponsored by The Texas Informer, the Cherokee County Brotherhood and City of Rusk.

In Jacksonville, two events are planned: Sweet Union Baptist Church, 302 N. Main St., will host a June 19 event at the church, while a second event is slated for June 22.

The church-sponsored event begins with an 11 a.m. skit by community youth, said Phyllis Johnson. “It's 2019, and they want to know what happened (in the years following emancipation.”

“We are going to have these little kids give a presentation of how we got freedom, in what ways that took place and what we've done (since then),” she said, describing youths' portrayals of Muhammed Ali, Duke Ellington, former President Barack Obama, Marian Anderson and Debbie Allen. “Then it'll be fun and games and food afterward.”

To learn more, contact Sweet Union Church, 903-586-4578.

A second celebration is in the works for June 22 in Jacksonville, and includes a parade, according to information listed in a recent Jacksonville City Council agenda. No other information was available as of press time.