Sunday, June 19, 2011


Organizers of Jasper County’s first Juneteenth Celebration are deeming it a success.

Paula McDonald-Carmichael, president and founder of the newly-organized Jasper County Juneteenth Coalition, said “We had a wonderful time Friday night. It was a great success.

“We want to make Juneteenth an annual celebration here in Jasper County,” she added.

Celebrated by cities and communities across the nation, Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the War Between the States or Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free.

This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which became official on January 1, 1863. Because the Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order, a number of African Americans celebrate Juneteenth as African American Independence Day. Juneteenth is generally celebrated on the weekend closest to June 19.

Jasper County’s Juneteenth Celebration was a two-day event that started with a gospel concert at Heidelberg City Park from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday. The concert featured local community and church groups and praise dancers providing the entertainment. Also featured was guest speaker Ida McDonald Mosley.

“She did a wonderful job,” said McDonald-Carmichael. “We are pleased with the turnout.”

McDonald-Carmichael said the Juneteenth Celebration is something she first thought about doing a year ago. She said she finally got up enough nerve to ask city and county officials about doing it and the rest is history.

“I wanted to do it because I think it is important for our youth and future generation to know about their history,” she said. “Juneteenth is something that not many people are taught about.

“They don’t know what it is or why it is so important to us. It’s basically a day we celebrate our freedom.”

Joining the celebration was Heidelberg’s oldest living female, 102-year-old Sallie Mae Cooley. She road on a float in the parade that was Saturday at 9 a.m.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Cooley. “Just wonderful.”

The parade started in Downtown Heidelberg and went from Highway 528, ending at the Heidelberg High School campus. Assorted booths were set up along Main Street.

“It’s all a celebration of our African American Culture,” said Vickie Cooley, a member of the coalition. “We love to eat and drink, sit down and talk to each other and enjoy good music.

“It’s something we wanted to do to bring the community together. “

Other coalition members are Jasper County Supervisor Curtis Gray, Paulette Morgan Barnett, Tina Morgan-Evans, Mary Plummer, Monica Arrington, Necole Arrington, Monique Bridges, Harriett M. Cooley, David Traylor Sr., Sherry Jones, Ron Barabino, Spencer Richardson and Shelia Pierce.

The theme for the event was “Diversified Communities - Growing as One.”

Kendall Porter, 31, said it is great for the coalition to get together to do something to bring the community together.

“It’s something that’s good for the entire community,” he said. “We have a good turnout. Hopefully, next year they will have even more people to come.”

McDonald-Carmichael, who plans to make the Juneteenth Celebration an annual event, said she hopes it gets bigger and better each year.

“This is our first time doing this and it started off a little rocky,” she said. “Things got better as we went along. You always learn from you first.”

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