Letting freedom ring in June

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Celebrations are scheduled throughout Missouri next weekend to commemorate a holiday that isn't marked on the calendars, but one which carries a special significance to many Americans nonetheless.

Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating the end of slavery in America that began on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news to Galveston, Texas, of the Emancipation Proclamation and Texas became the last state to recognize slaves' freedom. That was two years after the proclamation was actually issued.

The celebration's focal point is food, as participants come together with signature dishes and barbecue in a family reunion atmosphere. But the significance goes far beyond culinary treats with a message of historical and cultural awareness.

Past and future

"You can't look forward to the future if you don't know your past," said Bobby Guy, who organizes the celebration in St. Louis, the closest one taking place to Southeast Missouri. The event takes place June 19 starting at 8 a.m.

"As African-Americans, our roots in this country are not that deep, so I'm trying to give them something to hang onto for identity."

Even though the events are a celebration of the end of slavery, they stress cultural diversity and liberation and are open to anyone willing to participate, Guy said.

Guy's event is a family-oriented affair, as are other Juneteenth celebrations. The St. Louis celebration is held at Fairgrounds Park and features athletic events, activities for children, gospel music and celebrities like Nelly and Cedric the Entertainer.

Admission is free.

Other events taking place across Missouri include:

* The Fayette Juneteenth Celebration, Friday to June 19

* The Mexico Juneteenth Celebration, Friday and June 18

* The Rhythm and Ribs Jazz Festival in Kansas City, Friday to June 19

* The Arrow Rock Juneteenth Celebration, Saturday

* The Hannibal Juneteenth Celebration, Saturday

* The Higginsville Juneteenth Celebration, Saturday

* The St. Joseph Juneteenth Celebration, Saturday and June 19

* Celebration at the Missouri History Museum in St Louis' Forest Park at 2 p.m. June 19

For more information on Juneteenth events, visit the Missouri Division of Tourism Web site at www.visitmo.com. or call (573) 751-4133.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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