Juneteenth: Show & Tell

Juneteenth: Show & Tell

It seems like it’s come and gone so fast. Juneteenth 2012was an amazingly wonderful occasion this year to experience our people,culture, pride and legacy. We marveled toward the end at all the people thatfilled Stevenson Park, starting on Sunday, Father’s Day and ending on Tues. theactual day of the celebration. However, where we began, goes back several weeksto a fortuitous exchange between Ms. Yvette Williams and myself. I would liketo share our journey with you, the reader perchance you may learn whatstruggles we had to endure to bring this city one step closer to the visionthat we both shared for a more family friendly, safe, and historically accurateJuneteenth Community Celebration. Both of ushave had our dog day nights of the past, but we have come through those hardtimes and learned our lessons. Our history serves as a foundation for ourdesire to be of service. We have both yearned for the time to come when wecould return to our hometown and reinvent ourselves more authentic to theperson we’d morphed into after many years of maturation. {{more}} This year’s Juneteenth gave us a chance to show everyone,both hater and congratulator alike what we were made of and where we see thisevent, in terms of its relevance to a special population that often getsignored, or forgotten. Having been cut from the same cloth that many of thepeople who frequent Stevenson Park are cut, we felt obliged to give this eventour very best. And our best is what they got! I can saywith great pride that I am thankful for the God of heaven for having used me inany small way to bring the many smiles to the children’s faces. I can say, too,that I am grateful for such acquaintances and associates as Ms. Yvette Williamswho sacrificed her personal resources to invest in the work of service to thepeople of Abilene who honor and recognize Juneteenth as an important time ofremembrance. Ourfestivities began with a kid’s carnival on Friday, June 15; and then on Sat.June 16, we marched with Baby and Balloon at Stevenson Park. The Kids were happy to see and do more. Photo courtesy of Robert Lillymostly our youth from City Hall, up Mesquite, and thendown E.N. 7 Street to Stevenson Park. The children reveled in the glory ofbeing the center of attention; Grace Point of Merkel, TX, joined us on thismarch. Their presence enhanced the sense of inclusiveness that we all felt whenwe discussed how freedom was not just a black thing, although Juneteenth isspecifically aimed at highlighting our historical reality of chattel slavery. Bothgroups, as the parade ended danced, happily in the Park, and next we went overto St. John’s Missionary Baptist church where the program was centered aroundour listening to the actual audio narratives of former slaves who lived duringthe end of slavery in America. We sat, in rapt silence and learned, directlyfrom the source what it was like to endure and survive during those “Bull WhipDays” of yesteryear. The nextday, Sunday, we got wet and wild with air castles at the Park and laughed, andscreamed at the top of our lungs, literally because there were so many kids outand about, not getting into trouble but enjoying lifeThe children had fun at the Junteenth Celebration and learned about the history of the holiday. Photo by Alan Copelandand having good fun. Iwill admit, it takes a lot to work with young people; you have to be patientand long suffering. I tip my hat to the many volunteers, from the neighborhoodthat endured the heat and manned the castles, like true soldiers. By eveningwe had almost 600 people in attendance for Father’s Day, and the stage wasablaze with the fly poetry and rhymes of Super High Society, a rap group thathails form GA. It was amazing to see the kids bum rush the stage to getautographs after the set ended. DJ. Skid, as usual was there to spin the musicthat got the people up and out their seats. He is truly the ‘Pied Piper ofAbilene, Texas;’ wherever DJ. Skid goes the people are sure to follow. Monday, wasa little slower, but like we promised, we were there, and although we had nofood scheduled to share with the public, a true brother comes to the rescuewith hotdogs for all the young ones and the not-so-young ones, too. One of thethings about Juneteenth that has always both amazed and attracted me to theevent was that I sensed in it a living spirit of community. This year I had achance to see that spirit moving, up close. I saw it in theGrace Point & St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church BBQ in the Stevenson Neighborhood on Saturday 16th. Photo courtesy of Robert Lilly.elder women, whoinsisted upon cooking something for the neighborhood BBQ. I saw it in thepersons who had recently overcome addiction and were now working out theirrecovery, who wanted to be involved in any elemental way. I saw it in thechildren who jumped at the opportunity to march in the parade. I saw it in sawit the many white brothers and sisters who ventured into the Park, and throughaffirmative comments from the blacks that saw this as a good thing for theevent. Love,fellowship, mutual concern, personal sacrifice, willingness, and open arms werethe order of the day, for the most part of all 5 days of celebration. For nextyear, the plans are to work smarter, not harder to see that this event receivesthe high esteem it deserves in the eyes of our people. We intend to do this bybeginning our work further back from the date of the planned activities; byoffering community events as fund raisers throughout the year, leading up tothe next date for Juneteenth. We have already begun to address greater securityneeds for any outdoor events. We have conferred with City councilman AnthonyWilliams as regards these matters. We will be scheduling indoor events thatfocus more on the history and content of what it means to celebrate Juneteenth,and lastly, but not least, we will be making efforts to connect our work to thenational efforts to have Juneteenth recognized as a national holiday, like MLKDay. We cannotdo this as a small group; it will literally take the coordinated efforts ofmany to realize this dream. From the looks of all those who were willing tovolunteer this year, we know that there are many people out there that want tobe active and invested in this community. If that person is you, then I wouldlike to encourage you to contact me at Robert@wecareabilene.org. The masses gather for Juneteenth at Stevenson Park. Photo courtesy of Robert Lilly Lastly, Iwant to mention the Abilene Reporter News story. I want to clarify amisperception that seems to have crept into some people’s thinking. Some arewondering if we are going to charge for the meal? The answer to that questionis no. However, we are seeking means and ways to facilitate black businessesbeing strengthened during this time of year through our activities. Blackpeople have to stop looking for a free ride and find a way to gain control ofthe bus. We have event after event, and only a few traipse away with anythingresembling a profit. Everyone seems to be winning except us. So, if I do decideto contrive a way for us to make a dollar, there is no shame in that, at leastit will be a legal dollar that won’t get us locked up, and the flip side ofthat will be that we will be doing this to further advance the dignity of ourcommunity. FOR MORE PICTURES FROM THE JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION VISIT OUR “PICTURE STORIES AROUND ABILENE” PAGE