The Marshall-Harrison County annual Juneteenth celebration will return this year after the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown with a new parade route and a slate of new activities, to be held at the George Washington Carver Community Center.

The Marshall-Harrison County Juneteenth Committee has teamed up with the George Washington Carver Community Center to present this year’s annual celebration — complete with the largest community line dance, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, a fashion show, petting zoo, grand parade and more.

“The Juneteenth celebration is back,” said Alma Ravenell, who co-chairs the annual event with her husband, Don.

The grand affair was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alma said the event will kick off this year, first with a business expo held at the Carver Community Center.

“This is a collaboration with Carver Community Center and with Kenneth and Angelita Jackson,” she said of the Jacksons, who are co-directors of the Carver Community Center and the in-house Anointing Grace Ministries.

“They really have been a blessing,” said Alma. “They’ve had a lot of new things (added). Some of the things they’re bringing specifically to the table are the business expo, the gospel concert, the biggest line dance in East Texas, the pop-up diaper drive, the three-on-three basketball tournament, and they plan to have the food pantry setting up as well.

“So they really came in strong,” she said of the Jacksons. “They are really taking a good lead in this Juneteenth (celebration).”

The holiday, June 19, marks the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas finally learned that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished. The news, which was delivered in Galveston by Union soldiers, came two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued in 1862 and became official Jan. 1, 1863.

“It’s a commemoration,” said Alma. “It’s the oldest, nationally celebrated commemoration that recognizes the end of slavery in the US. It dates back to 1865. It was June 19 when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston with the news that the war had ended. It was two-and-a-half years after President’s Lincoln Emancipation Proclamation.”

Schedule of activities

The holiday is presently observed by 47 states and the District of Columbia. This year’s celebration will be a two-day affair, starting with the business expo on Friday, June 18, from noon to 2 p.m. The fashion show will follow at 6:30 p.m., featuring local couples.

“We will be highlighting influential couples of Marshall, Texas. We want everyone to come out and be surprised (about) who is going to be there,” said Alma.

The celebration will continue Saturday, June 19, with a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, starting at 9 a.m., at the community center, located at 2302 Holland St. Registration is $30 per team. Send Paypal payments to georgewashingtonccc@gmail.com. To register, follow George Washington Carver Community Center on Facebook and click on the 3-on-3 basketball registration link.

The annual Juneteenth grand parade will begin at 11 a.m., starting with the lineup at Wiley College this year instead of downtown. Lineup of parade participants is set to begin at 10 a.m. Those interested in participating are encouraged to call parade chairperson, Bianca Williams, at (903) 690-4508 for more details.

“We’re blessed to have Bianca Williams spearheading that,” said Alma.

“It’s open at this point,” she said, encouraging participation. “We welcome them.”

The commemoration program will immediately follow the parade with guest speaker, the Rev. Joe Lovely. Lovely’s wife, Catina Lovely, will render a solo. The 2021 Miss Juneteenth, Chylin Robertson, will also partake in the festivities. The 16-year-old is a 2021 graduate of Marshall High School, and plans to enroll in college and pursue a career as a dental hygienist.

“We appointed Miss Juneteenth, and Chylin Robertson graciously accepted that for us,” said Alma.

Alma said the commemoration program will reflect a day of remembrance.

“We’re going to remember what Juneteenth was,” she said.

Additionally, “People can come out and find out who is going to be celebrated for our community advocate for this year,” said Alma. “That’s always a fun surprise to find out who it is.”

The day will also include the popular Bo Green’s domino tournament. A variety of food and merchandise vendors are also in store.

“There’s going to be a petting zoo. There’s going to be food vendors and merchandise vendors,” said Don Ravenell. “We’re going to have a gospel concert, which is something new that we’re very excited about. That’s being sponsored by Anointing Grace Ministries.”

The gospel concert will begin immediately following the commemoration program. Old-fashioned children’s games — including hula-hoop, three-legged race, egg toss and football toss — are also in store.

“Ribbons and awards will be given to the kids for the winners,” said Don.

The food pantry will be on hand, distributing food, starting at 9 a.m. The pamper pop-up drive, sponsored by Carver Community Center, will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. also that Saturday.

“All of that was organized by the Carver Center – diaper drive, food drive, petting zoo; and joint venture on basketball and line dance, Carver is sponsoring that,” said Alma.

Also to commemorate the holiday, the community center has partnered with Michelson Museum of Art to provide a free art class this Thursday and Friday, June 10 and 11, for children ages 7 to 12. The class will be hosted at the community center. The young artists’ masterpieces will be showcased at the Juneteenth celebration. To register, parents can call or text their child’s name and age to (903) 472-9707.

For the line dance, organizers invite all to join them for a fun way to get fit as they form the largest community Juneteenth dance line on the parking lot of the community center. Practices will be Monday and Thursday of each week, leading up to the celebration, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Day of remembrance

Organizers encourage the public to come and join in the planned Juneteenth activities as the holiday is celebrated.

“We are very excited that we are going to try to have Wiley College more involved this year,” Don said of the historically black college and university. “We’re going to start at Wiley and we’re going to go all the way to the Carver Center.

“We’re very happy about the route that we’re taking this year because it will stay in the community and we’re very excited about that,” he said. “We want to get the community more involved; and the route of the parade will get the community more involved.”

“We’re trying to accomplish something here for the community. It’s all about the community,” said Don.

Most of all, they want all to remember Juneteenth, which marks a very important day in American history.

“Juneteenth is to bring to mind that even after Lincoln had established that Blacks were free, it took more than a year for Texas to get the message,” said Alma. “It was not a big celebratory event.

“It wasn’t well accepted,” added Don. “It was a time where people were confused. There was a lot of frustration. People didn’t know to believe it or accept it. There were a lot of decisions for families being made at that time — to stay as servants or to be free or venture out on their own.”

But despite the delayed message, the date still remains significant, and one to be celebrated.

“We want to make sure everybody remembers Juneteenth,” said Alma. “It’s good to know that it’s becoming more popular even though it came at a way people did not expect.”

“And we do hope our county will re-instate that holiday (on the county’s closed for business calendar) because it is important to us,” she said. “We became free. Even though we had a long way to go, we became American citizens officially.”

All activities will be held at Carver Community Center, located at 2302 Holland St.

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