MANSFIELD ─ In Darrell Smith’s opinion, Juneteenth is a day that recognizes the unity of the country but hasn’t been promoted very much.
That is why he and some community members are organizing the Juneteenth Festival, which will take place at John Todd Park on June 19 from noon until sunset.
Smith said multiple food vendors will be available, including Ms. Lil’s Fish, Maries’ Soul Creations and his business, Smitty’s & Co. There will also be live music, games and giveaways provided.
Organizations and businesses will set up informational booths, Smith said. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will help people register to vote. New Mercy Outreach, a nonprofit foster care network, is going to provide information regarding the process of becoming foster parents.
The festival is presented by Smitty’s & Co, Shirley A. Foundation and True Ballah Entrtprises. Smith said he hopes it will develop into an annual event, especially after not celebrating last year.
Cleve Gordan, founder of Shirley A. Foundation, said the Juneteenth celebration educates the public about the Black culture, so he wanted to contribute to the event.
“I feel like the way the world is today, we need more information on that,” he said.
Smith said Mansfield used to have a big celebration for Juneteenth with African dance performances, vendors and speakers.
“It doesn't get celebrated like it should be,” Smith said. “And it's really important. I mean, I think it should be a national holiday.”
Juneteenth marks the day that freedom finally came to everyone in the U.S. While the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863, it was not implemented in places under Confederate control, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
On June 19, 1865, about 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas and announced that more than 250,000 enslaved black people were free. That day has been known as Juneteenth.
Smith said the country celebrates the Fourth of July, but not everyone was free until Juneteenth. He hopes the celebration for Juneteenth will keep growing and become as big as Independence Day in the future.
“I don't believe it's just about a group of people (African Americans). I believe that's where we started to become one nation,” Smith said.
The organizer said the Juneteenth Festival welcomes people of any ethnic group because “any history in America is everybody's history.”
“We are a melting pot and we all contribute to each other,” he said.
For more information about the event at John Todd Park on June 19, contact Darrell Smith at 567-307-1850.