With Juneteenth quickly approaching on June 19, the Bryan-College Station area is hosting The Juneteenth Parade and Blues Festival to honor the holiday that commemorates the 1865 abolition of slavery in Texas.
The parade and festival will kick off on June 15 at 10 a.m. at Kemp-Carver Elementary School in Bryan and end at Sadie Thomas Park at 12 p.m. The theme of this event is “Looking Back to Move Forward,” and everyone is invited to celebrate.
“This holiday gives everyone in the community an opportunity to be aware of and celebrate the rich diversity of our community,” Brazos County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace, and Brazos Valley African American Museum board member Celina Vasquez said. “To me, Juneteenth is about celebrating our history, and the contributions of great African Americans.”
Vasquez, a former government teacher at Blinn College, said although the Emancipation Proclamation — President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation that freed slaves — was issued in 1863, the news did not reach Texas until 1865.
“This is not an African American only holiday, it is a holiday for all Texans and all Americans because it is important that we all know our history,” Vasquez said.
Historically, parades have symbolized celebration for thousands of years. One of the more well known parades in the United States’ history, the Grand Review of the Armies celebrated the end of the Civil War, but to some, parades symbolize more.
“The parade as a sign for the celebration is important for any community of people, but especially the black community,” communications sophomore Essence Williams said. “As a community who was persecuted for simply existing, parades represent a celebration of freedom.”
However, for many, Juneteenth didn’t truly encompass freedom until much later when trailblazers like Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advanced civil rights for African Americans. To some, it is especially important to remember the emancipation of the African American community.
“I believe that it is very important that we are reminded of these trailblazers,” business senior and Texas A&M NAACP president Toriah Taylor said. “But honestly, this is Freedom Day, which is what we should be celebrating, not anyone in particular but our once enslaved ancestors as a whole.”
While Juneteenth is a celebration of the abolition of slavery, Taylor said this holiday would not be possible without the activism of the Civil Rights era.
“It makes me feel hopeful, that the country and people of every race and ethnicity within it, hear us,” Taylor said. “It’s a breath of fresh air and a relief to know that people like MLK and Rosa Parks set the tone and broke the barrier so that we can march for things like this.”
For more information on the Juneteenth Parade and Blues Festival, visit Brazos Valley Juneteenth Celebration on Facebook.