The 2019 Marshall-Harrison County Juneteenth Celebration kicked off in full force this weekend, starting with a motivational Miss Juneteenth program on Friday and concluding with a fun-filled parade on Saturday.

“I get excited about this day,” said Don Ravenell, who co-chairs the annual celebration with his wife Alma Ravenell.

“This is a special moment for the city of Marshall,” he said as festivities began Friday night with the Miss Juneteenth program at Smith Park Community Center.

The program consisted of a parade of contestants, a showcase of talent and an inspirational message from keynote speaker, Marshall News Messenger reporter Robin Richardson, who encouraged all to let their light shine.

Talent from the young ladies ranged from a cappella singing to acrobatic flips. Marshall High School student Deanndra Jernigan, who moved all singing Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” was crowned the 2019 Miss Juneteenth. Zion Nicholson was named first runner-up and Dai’Monique Ward was announced second runner-up.

“We’re proud of these young ladies,” said Ravenell, noting their aspirations range from law, medicine, business and performing arts.

The goal is to mentor participants and engage them in community service activities to benefit their local community.

“In all aspects Juneteenth recognizes community contributions, so of course we want to include community service,” said committee member, Hazel Phillips.

She said part of what they do for the Juneteenth celebration is to reach out to young ladies who are interested in community service and recognize the role African-Americans play and realize that they have a part to play as well.

“We want to make sure they have a presence in all of the activities Marshall and Harrison County, in particular, provide for our youth and just to keep people aware that Juneteenth is not just one day,” said Phillips. “It’s an experience and we continue to support that experience by what we do with our lives.

“It’s freedom day,” she said. “We need to celebrate. We’re free.”

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.

“Without Juneteenth most of us wouldn’t even be in a place that we are now,” said Phillips. “So, we want to always recognize that Juneteenth is more than just a weekend or a picnic or parade.

She said the two-day celebration, which includes the parade, is an opportunity for Marshall to acknowledge the significance of the commemoration in Texas.

“We encourage our community to remember that Juneteenth is what we are and we should always keep that at the forefront so that our children and children’s children will always appreciate what this means and why it is important to us.”

Don Ravenell said Saturday that he appreciated all who came out to support the annual parade.

“We have people all the way from Tyler,” he said of a showcase car club that features its swinging doors.

Ravenell also acknowledged Percy McFarland Jr., who hasn’t missed a parade yet.

“He has been with us every year,” said Ravenell. “I can ask that young man for anything and he’s there.”

Ravenell said he was also thrilled to have a group of riders on four-wheelers join in the fun.

“This is their first year and we’re very happy,” said Ravenell. “They came in seven to eight deep.”

Ravenell thanked Marshall Fire Chief Reggie Cooper for allowing his department to lead the parade. He also acknowledged the George A. Thompson American Legion Post 878 as well as the Marshall Lil Mavs youth football, cheer and drill organization.

“They always come with a wonderful float,” said Ravenell.