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Juneteenth commemoration kicks off with plan for walkathon

DOWNTOWN – At the start of the month when the end of slavery was enforced in the United States, Mayor Tishaura Jones reminded a crowd at the Old Courthouse that the fight for freedom must go on from generation to generation.

“We must recognize and thank those before us who continued to fight in spite of the blatant oppression, and laid the foundation for our liberation, because this is our heritage. Nobody can take that from us,” Jones said at a kickoff event for an upcoming celebration, called the ART 2063 Juneteenth Caribbean Heritage Walkathon: A Long Journey to Equal Citizenship.

Jones was one of several speakers who stressed the importance of the upcoming June 19 holiday, called Juneteenth.

On June 19, 1865, federal troops came to Galveston, Texas, to control the state and make sure slaves in the state were freed under the terms of the Emancipation Proclamation. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the proclamation on Jan. 1, 1893, but not all the states and territories had actually ended the practice of slavery then.

That happened in Texas when U.S. Gen. Gordon Granger read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

Jones is the Honorary Chair of the walkathon, sponsored by Africans Rising Together 2063. The organization describes itself as “a non-profit organization with a mission to educate people of African descent concerning the true historical significance about our experience, culture, and contributions to the world.”

The mayor presented a proclamation to the organization commemorating its Juneteenth walkathon on June 19.

“Just yesterday,” Jones said in prepared remarks, “we recognized the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, in which the rise of black wealth and prosperity in the Greenwood District was perceived as a threat and wiped from the face of their city.”

“The people in power at the time had many excuses for why they leveled more than 30 city blocks, but we all know that it was our success, our wealth, our freedom that was a threat to the status quo that dictated your success solely by the color of your skin,” Jones said. “Yet in spite of blatant oppression, our ancestors continued to fight.”

The mayor said that special days such as Juneteenth were times to continue fighting for justice by preserving history through the generations.

“We must recognize and thank those before us who continued to fight in spite of the blatant oppression, and laid the foundation for our liberation, because this is our heritage. Nobody can take that from us,” Jones said. “Saturday, June 19, is another historic day – we will be celebrating Juneteenth, a national holiday celebrating our ancestors’ emancipation from slavery.”

Joan Williams, outreach coordinator and field liaison for the 11th U.S. House of Representatives District in Ohio, echoed Jones’ message in a talk during the same program.

“When I think of Juneteenth, I think of freedom, independence and equality,” Williams said. “Juneteenth is a day to reflect on our nation’s history. It’s a day to celebrate Black lives.

“It’s a day to acknowledge, to remember, to learn and to take decisive action against the daily indignities and atrocities inherent to realizing equality, citizenship, true freedom in the United States.

Williams noted that she is a first-generation American and that her parents immigrated here from the Caribbean. Speaking about a theme of the day, Williams said that famous Blacks who came from the Caribbean included the actor Sidney Poitier, activist Malcolm X, Gen. Colin Powell and the calypso singer, activist and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.

The walkathon will be at various times June 19 on the Forest Park Cricket Field, 5595 Grand Drive.in Forest Park.  For details and to register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/art-2063-first-annual-juneteenth-caribbean-heritage-walkathon-tickets-155557066373.

“Our goal is to help raise funds for ART 2063 activities that will educate, inspire and bring together African Americans, Africans in the diaspora, and Africans on the continent, to repair breaches, heal wounds, and reunite those of African descent,” an information box on the website says.  

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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