Newton County is having our fifth annual Juneteenth Festival at Nelson Heights Community Center from 12:00pm to 8:00pm on Saturday, June 18, 2016.
Juneteenth is a celebration of putting slavery to an end in the United States. Since 1865 Juneteenth has become an African American Emancipation Day. The term Juneteenth is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth” put together.
Some people might think Juneteenth should be celebrated in January rather than June, since that is when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. However, local President of Juneteenth Terri James says,” The President may have signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, but the slaves didn’t find out until the Civil War was over with.”
The slave owners were informed that slaves were being set free, but they weren’t going to allow the slaves to leave until they were ready to release them. Instead, the owners kept the slaves for two and half more years until after the Civil War ended and Confederate Robert E. Lee surrendered.
James got involved with Juneteenth when a friend informed her about what Juneteenth stood for. Once James was found out what Juneteenth was, she decided to start her own Juneteenth Festival right here in Covington.
Each year, James has been trying to teach not only children but, also some adults, who may not be aware of the event.
“Juneteenth is the freedom of blacks. Just like people celebrate the Fourth of July, Juneteenth should be celebrated the same. Because Juneteenth isn’t just a regular holiday, it is a holiday that shows the freedom of African Americans,” James states. “My goal is to educate our children on this important piece of history, so they will have some knowledge about Juneteenth”
Although, Juneteenth may not be not an official federal holiday, it is celebrated in 43 out of the 50 states in the United States and the District of Columbia.
Every year Juneteenth has local events such as choir and dancer competition, fashion shows, adult card games and checkers, children games, musical entertainment and refreshments.
James says of her efforts, “Every year for Juneteenth, I am trying to raise money for scholarship funds.”
According to James, each year a deserving student will be awarded a token of appreciation for their hard work. James is trying to raise money for the less fortunate kids because most of the kids cannot afford to go to college on their own or they do not get scholarships. Juneteenth is a way to help raise money for kids in the community. In order to meet the goal, they are asking for sponsorship from local businesses and individuals.
This will be Juneteenth’s fifth year being celebrated in Newton County and the event has grown into a cultural event. It focuses on friends, family, the community, and its achievements.
“We need to keep Juneteenth celebration alive in a way so that our children in this generation will be aware of their history,” stresses James. “Because kids today lack knowledge of their own history. Most kids today may not be aware of Juneteenth. Anything I can do to help out and educate our children on Juneteenth, I will. Because it is important for kids to be educated on their history.”
In addition to this event promoting Black History, the members of Juneteenth try to give back to the community by hosting Block Parties, Cookouts at the church, and a yearly “Christmas Rock,” where toys and gifts are given out to the children, James said.
For more information on the event, please contact Terri James at 404-861-0707.