Following protests to end systemic racism following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis on Memorial Day after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes, individuals in Grayson County are working to take the next step in their pursuit of changing laws.

Grayson United will be hosting its Juneteenth celebration Saturday at Pecan Grove Park in Sherman. The event will start at noon and organizers have planned for the event to be over at 10 p.m.

Organizer Erik Jackson’s initial interest in joining the already established event was to simply register more voters in Grayson County. But after he learn that area celebrations normally set for this weekend were being canceled to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Jackson said Grayson United was formed.

“We somewhat put this group together on the fly, but we plan to host events throughout the year,” Jackson said. “We wanted to make this a food event and to be all free. It has been important to us to not let go of the momentum and not let this Juneteenth pass us by.”

The organization has about seven members. Though there are just a few official members, Jackson said that when he began making plans to put on the celebration, many individuals began volunteering to support the mission.

“In light of the protests going on all around the country, we did not want the energy to die down,” he said. “We wanted to get the meat on the plate. We are starting there. We want to keep this going.”

Though area Juneteenth celebrations have been taking place around Grayson County for years, Jackson said this is the first county-wide event.

“We see this as a God send,” he said. “We have never had an event like this that will be all free and Sherman and Denison are coming together. The goal and mission is for Grayson to be united. We do not want to be divided.”

Jackson also said that during this current movement, the youth are leading the way and now it is on the community to respond.

“We need legislation to get things passed,” Jackson said. “We need people in key positions to make this happen. If you do not have voter awareness and mission politics to get things passed. Without these things, we are lost.”

The free event will have food, kids games, bounce houses, water games, music and more. The day will also include a voter’s registration drive.

“It has been out of control,” Jackson said. “I have not stressed about one single part of the event. You never want to put an event on and not have time. It was against the odds, but this event would not have been possible if the community had not stepped up.”

Juneteenth, or June 19th, recognizes the day when slaves in Texas found out about President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the document that allowed for the freeing of the slaves in states in rebellion during the Civil War. The proclamation in Galveston, the last area to receive notice, took place two years after the initial document was written.