Sunday, June 14, 2009

Juneteenth in Washington Park Draws Huge Crowd – Video/Slideshow

Chow Line

Chow Line

What a day – it threaten rain and sprinkled a few drops at first. Then the sun  came out and really turned the humidity up  to a full-blown “super-high red sweat” alert.

The turnout for Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration was the largest since its inception 3 years ago. The Countryside Neighborhood Alliance has participated every year. This year we had a horseshoe challenge for the kids to play – it was a hit that kept us hopping. Get a ringer and the kids got their pick of one of 100 stuffed animals. The accumulation of the 100 stuffed animals and various characters by Becky and Eddie Johnson is a story in itself I’ll write about later.

There were over 2000 people this year. I know that because there was  food for 2000 and it was running out by 3:00 PM. The call went out over the loudspeaker – there was just one more box of fried chicken is left. A rush to the chow line ensued instantly to grab the last pieces. There were hot dogs and hamburgers, watermelon, potato salad, munchies and drinks. Not a penny did anyone have to pay. Everything was free with donations from Walmart, Pepsi, and Frito Lay, and many more. It even included volunteer servers with smiles that never left their faces. CLICK HERE FOR businesses who donated time and food, a the full list of entertainers, and participants like the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition who gave away boxes of “Greenlite” light bulbs.

Congressman Goodlatte & Mayor Bowers

Congressman Goodlatte & Mayor Bowers

Mayor Bowers read a proclamation and presented it to past President and founder of the SCLC, Dr. Perneller Chubb-Wilson and current President Bishop Edward Mitchell. Congressman Bob Goodlatte and his wife, Maryellen always attends the celebration and inspires the crowd. Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea attended with his family and endured some good-natured ribbing as he sat at our Countryside table.

Other officials included Councilwoman Anita Price and Sheriff Octavia. Johnson. The Republican candidate for the House of Delegates, Bill Cleaveland fresh from his primary win on Tuesday was making the rounds with his campaign manager Steve Mabry. Also spotted was Republican City Chair, Adam Boitnott. Boitnott pulled up beside me with his beautiful daughter. We both arrived at the same time. To Adam – No, I didn’t key your car but when I left I thought I saw a scratch on my car that was not there before!

The heat and humidity did not deter the crowds or the entertainment. The Praise Dancers delighted all to the point no one could sit still. See the video below and then read more.

Jeff Artis, Southern Christian Leadership Conference past president, said “this year’s Juneteenth celebration set a new standard for all Juneteenth celebrations.”

Artis set out to make  Roanoke SCLC’s gang prevention program a focal point of the celebration. In his words, “it was a wonderful day for unity, brotherhood, good food and good entertainment.”

WHAT IS JUNETEENTH?History books tell us that on January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed The Emancipation Proclamation, the document that freed the slaves in those areas that were in rebellion against the United States of America. History books go on to tell us that the American Civil War ended on April 9, 1865. However, history books also tell us that it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, in Galveston Texas, that the last of the former slaves of the Confederate States of America found out that the Civil War was over and that they were free men, free women and free children. June 19, 1865 is called “Juneteenth” for that reason. “Juneteenth” is considered by many to be Black America’s Independence Day.

There are many reasons given as to why it took so long for the last remaining slaves in Galveston, Texas to find out that the Civil War was over, the South had lost the Civil War and that they were now free men, women and children. Some of these reasons may be true. Some of these reasons may be false. No one knows for sure. What is known for sure is on this day, June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger led the Union Army into Galveston, Texas and read GENERAL ORDER NUMBER 3, freeing the last 250,000 slaves in the former Confederate States of America and giving these slaves their freedom.


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 quality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community, Local Events, Video

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