The return of Juneteenth: Festival back after 20-plus-year absence

Published 4:02 am Saturday, May 25, 2019

An event that has not been held in Bogalusa for at least 20 years will be making its return in June.

Event organizers are excited to announce that the “Juneteenth Celebration” will be held Saturday, June 15, starting at 10:30 a.m. in Cassidy Park. The event is sponsored by the NAACP of Washington Parish and the theme is “Strength in our Past, Faith in our Future.” There will also be a parade at 9 a.m., beginning at Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church (1104 Poplas St.).

Melvin Keith, a member of the Juneteenth executive board, said that the day is a significant celebration in U.S. history.

The formal date of Juneteenth is June 19, and it commemorates the “announcement” of slavery’s abolition in the state of Texas in 1865. Keith explained that although the Civil War had ended in April of that year, news traveled slowly at the time and the state did not receive official word of slavery’s abolition until the Juneteenth date.

Keith noted that 46 states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or ceremonial day — the only four that do not are Hawaii, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota.

Juneteenth president Raymond Tate also pointed out that this year holds a special additional significance. He said that the first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Va., in 1619, and so this year marks the 400th anniversary of that occurrence.

Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette said that she encourages for the entire community to come out and enjoy the activities.

“I’m personally looking forward to this event and I want to encourage everyone to participate,” she said. “To me, this is an educational tool that should be for all of us.”

Keith agreed with Perrette, noting that organizers want for the event to be “for all — young, old, black, white.” He said that some students would be writing essays on what Juneteenth means to them, as a way to get younger people involved in its historical significance.

Perrette said that she was not sure of the last date that Juneteenth was celebrated as a festival in Bogalusa, but believed it was “at least 20 years ago.”

There will be events throughout the day in the park and surrounding community. Just some of those activities include a parade, a car show, a festival, vendors and entertainment throughout the day.

Tate also said that there would be a “civil rights trail” set up at the park, for visitors to view.

“This day is about our ancestors and their struggles,” Tate said. “We want to bring attention to that history.”

The special guest performer will be Tea J. Moore, and the event will honor Alvin Carter and Oneal Moore.

Juneteenth chairperson Michelle Arinde said that there would be a particular focus on the special needs community, during the event.

“We are a big advocate for them,” she said. “We will be providing a tent for them, so that they’ll be comfortable. We’ll have drinks and snacks. We’ll have people there who will speak who are advocates (for special needs).”

Those who are interested in being vendors can call 985-750-2031. Those who are interested in participating in the parade can call 985-294-1958 or 985-516-9326.

For additional information about Juneteenth, call Keith at 985-241-1653, Deidra Owens at 985-294-9934 or Dana Walker at 985-750-0094.

“It’s a family event,” Perrette said. “I think it’s going to be a positive thing for our community.”