19th Juneteenth Festival concludes

The 19th Annual Juneteenth Emancipation Celebration concluded Sunday at Memorial Park, and despite the rain and clouds, people came out to celebrate a special day in African American history. Guest speaker, Minister Jarmani Dozier, jokingly asked who prayed for the rain before giving his speech.

The family-friendly event, sponsored by the 2014 Celebration Committee, celebrates the period when slaves received information to the ending of the Civil War-a time of liberty and freedom. Once the slaves were free, President Abraham Lincoln, on Sept. 22, 1862, issued an emancipation proclamation, stating freedom of all slaves in the Confederate States of America that rejected returning to the Union. Zero states made a return to the Union.

According to Dozier, it was not until June 19, 1865 when Major Gordan Granger of the Union arrived in Texas when the slaves discovered they were freed years ago.

The theme of this year’s two-day celebration was, “The Struggle Continues,” and Loretta Slaton Torain explained where the thought originated.

“Every year in January, we pick a theme that we work with, starting from the Martin Luther King luncheon, and we go to the end of the year,” Torain said. “This year was the ‘Struggle Continues,’ which was taken from one of MLK’s works. It highlights the fact that sometimes people think that with civil rights, it’s over and everything is fine. But we let them know that it still continues.”

The Juneteenth Celebration began after a small group of citizens met for a meeting, according to Torain. They talked about it since the celebration was taking place across the country. After a discussion, they decided to start one up in Dunkirk. Torain mentioned the dedicated group of people who have given to support the event over the past 19 years.

A gospel service started off events at the celebration, with Minister Dozier speaking to the crowd, who made their way under the tents as the rain began, about the history of Juneteenth and the struggles that many African Americans faced and continue to face.

“Slaves were expected to do very hard, dirty, back-breaking work,” Dozier said. “They dug wells and canals. They planted and tended to crops. They made furniture and built houses. They also cleaned, cooked, and took care of their owner’s children, without being paid. After they were free, they began the long struggle to gain equal rights with other citizens. More than 100 years later, courageous men and women are still fighting for the rights of African Americans today.”

Dozier ended his speech talking about the injustices that continue to occur today, and telling the people to stay steadfast since everything will be all right in the end.

Events at the 19th Annual Juneteenth celebration continued throughout the day with a gospel fest from 2 to 6 p.m., featuring the New Gospel Sounds, The Fantastic Northington Singers, Vizion, and JUDAH. Bouncers were available for kids to enjoy, along with various games and a crafts corner. A Juneteenth Auction was on display featuring many items.

As Frank Torain said after Dozier’s speech, “Many people are celebrating as we are today. We should remember the continued struggle.”

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