Juneteenth Community Block Party Growing in Fourth year; Holiday Awareness Also Growing
Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021; commemorates the day in 1865 when Union troops informed slaves in Galveston Texas that they’d been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier
Performer Taraya Angeleece is starting another original song during the 4th Annual Juneteenth Block Party in Evansville, getting the crowd warmed up. “What’s up Juneteenth?”
Some film her set with their phones from the grass, as others watch from the shade of the big party tent.
Aside from the deejay and live performances there’s food, activities like a painting table for kids and lots of community spirit.
Monday was the Juneteenth Holiday, commemorating the day slaves in Galveston Texas were finally informed of their freedom — two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Steven Hairston is on the committee board for the event. This party started Friday afternoon and carried on through Sunday. He said the block party started during COVID in his yard to show commitment to his neighbors, and support local entrepreneurs.
Above all, it’s a family-friendly event.
“This is something for everyone from great grandmama down to the babies in a bassinet,” he said. “So it's just a memories for for the people just to remember where we came from the struggles we had to go through and to finally look back and be like hey, ‘we prevailed.’”
As a visual reminder of prevailing, there were fireworks Saturday night. To tend to the participants' spiritual side, a sermon Sunday Morning.
They also recognized Father’s Day.
“We just want to acknowledge those in the community that really love and care and do it from the spirit,” Hairston said.
While the federal holiday is June 19, other states such as Tennessee and Kentucky also celebrate August 8 as emancipation day. But Hairston doesn’t want technicalities to get in the way of the celebration.
“I want to see Juneteenth celebrated and recognized and embraced just as the magnitude of July 4,” he said. “ I want everyone to understand that your equality and your freedom, my quality and my freedom, you know, we're just barely a month apart, but still, different days for each freedom. I mean, I celebrate both, and you can celebrate both, too.”
Angeleece, who both sold artwork and performed on stage, is hopeful for growth of Juneteenth’s profile. “I would say we could do better,” she said. “It could be way bigger. Yeah, hopefully in the years to come. It'll be huge, and everybody knows.”
Regarding other events — also on Saturday was the Third Annual Juneteenth Negro League Tribute Baseball game is at 5 p.m. at Bosse Field.
A Juneteenth celebration was held Monday in Henderson Kentucky from 4-7 p.m. at Central Park off main and Washington streets.
Prior to the holiday and the weekend, the Evansville African American Museum (EAAM) and the Soul Writers Guild held an event, “Freedom to Think, Read and Write,” featuring local youth artists — spoken word performances and dance.
Museum Executive Director Kori Miller also led an education session on Juneteenth for logistics company Atlas World Group. He was surprised by the high attendance. “ I think that's indicative of people wanting to understand it more,” he said.
Miller believes the awareness of Juneteenth — and other freedom days are growing. “Actually, this year, there were more Juneteenth events than there ever has been. I mean, it probably quadrupled,” he said. “Since they became a federal holiday two years ago, it's it's becoming more widespread, even on social media, even on regular television programs, and so forth.”
The EAAM will be hosting a freedom day celebration on August 8 to commemorate the more local date, which affected slaves in western Kentucky.
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