Juneteenth is celebrated as the day that people in Texas found out about the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, an order by President Abraham Lincoln freeing American slaves. Sherman and Denison honored the day with celebrations Saturday.
The Concerned Citizens of Denison held a parade that traveled from the Community Center of Denison to Munson Park. This is the sixth year the group has held a parade as part of its event.
“Every year around this time, we want people to know that there will be a celebration and to look for us,” Concerned Citizens Vice President Anna Waddle said. “People need to know about the history of Texas and the United States and about the struggles that the people before us went through.”
The Concerned Citizens also held a gathering in Munson Park Saturday. There were free refreshments, tables and a bounce house for children.
“We want the young people to know that we can get together and celebrate and have fun,” Concerned Citizens President Diane Wimbish said. “That is what the Concerned Citizens are all about. Everything we do for Juneteenth is free. We want to give back to the community.”
Wimbish said Juneteenth is all about honoring history; it is about celebrating African-American culture.
“We want to keep Juneteenth alive,” she said. “There is a reason for these types of celebrations. We have to teach it at home. So when black history comes up in school, children know the things that are not taught.”
Denison has had a Juneteenth celebration for more than 20 years, Waddles said.
“As parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, we have to try to keep the traditions going,” she said. “… They do it over in Sherman too. It is important.”
In Sherman, the Neighborhood Recreational Committee held its annual Juneteenth celebration complete with vendor booths, performers, food and activities for children. For this year’s event, organizers used a theme of “Unity in the Community” to bring together people from all creeds, races and backgrounds.
“Our thing is, let’s bring everyone in the community together for one cause,” Sherry Gillespie, a committee member, said. “Without unity, we can’t have progress. It is all about progress.”
Gillespie said she is from Arkansas and did not celebrate Juneteenth until she came to Texas about 20 years ago. Since being exposed to the holiday, she said she has found herself more aware of the past and her heritage.
“We have children and other generations that don’t know their heritage and where they came from,” she said.
Eric Ross, also representing the committee, said the holiday is important because it serves as a reminder of the past and helps give perspective on race in today’s society.
“It is important because we need to get people invested and a perspective on how important freedom is,” he said. “People forget this didn’t come all at one time. It took nearly a year and a half for freedom to come to Texas.”
Despite progress, racial inequality still remains alive in American and the world as a whole, Ross said.
“There is still a difference in race,” he said. “People still use race to degrade, use it to keep people from jobs, use it to their advantage.”
This is the second year since the event was moved from East Street Park to Lucy Kidd-Key Park. City Council Member Charles Brown said he believes the change in venue has allowed the event to grow, attracting several hundred visitors each year.
Through the event, he said he wanted to spread knowledge on the African-American history — something he feels should be taught more extensively in public schools.
“We are trying to get all the races together to show we can work together,” he said. “What we look like, what religion we are, doesn’t matter when it is all for a common cause.”