Nearly 100 members of the local area came together Saturday evening at the ARK Community and Sports Center to celebrate Juneteenth with a dinner, dance and educational program. The event was hosted by the Pulaski County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
This was the first Juneteenth observance in the local area in recent memory. Local Chapter President Carl Grandberry said he was thrilled with the outcome.
“I’m just really happy about the way everything went tonight,” Grandberry said.
During the event, Mary Ratliff, the president of the NAACP Missouri State Conference Branches, spoke to the audience about the history of Juneteenth, the importance of civil rights and the ongoing work that needs to continue within the African American communities and around the U.S.
Juneteenth has been a holiday since June 19, 1865, when word reached Galveston, Texas, that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing American slaves. The news reached the region nearly two years after the signing of the proclamation.
Ratliff said after the initial joy of the news, freed slaves migrated across the U.S., reuniting with their families.
“After migrating to these other areas, they would then migrate back to Galveston, Texas, on the 19th of June for the celebration of being freed. So Juneteenth was born,” she explained.
She added that the event gives all Americans a chance to reflect on the history of Civil Rights throughout the years. Ratliff said that work still needs to be done to unite America and provide equal rights for all people.
She spoke of the importance of voting and being active in the political process.
“We’ve got to be engaged,” Ratliff stressed. “We need to be full-time engaged in the political process.”
In addition to the Saturday evening event, a Juneteenth church service was held Sunday at Christian Tabernacle Church in St. Robert. Church Pastor Kenneth Hicks Sr., who attended the Saturday event and conducted the service on Sunday, said he planned to focus on the message of how far civil rights have come.
“We should continue to celebrate where God has brought us from … and let us continue to celebrate that red and yellow, black and white, we’re all precious in his sight,” Hicks said. “Regardless of race or color, we can all make it together.”
The theme of togetherness was also an integral part of Ratliff’s remarks. She encouraged the audience to reach out to young men and women and help them on their journey through life.
“Do all you can to advance everyone you can,” Ratliff said. “My challenge to you is this … what can I do to make my own country better?”
Grandberry said he was honored Ratliff spoke at the inaugural local Juneteenth event. He encouraged those in the community to learn more about the NAACP, which is open to anyone.
Page 2 of 2 - “I’d like everyone to know we are coming back to Pulaski County and just like Mrs. Ratliff said, it’s very important for everyone to register and vote this year. Our country has got to unite,” Grandberry said at the conclusion of the event.
For additional information about the local NAACP chapter, contact Grandberry at 336-1272 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The next meeting for the local NAACP branch is at 7 p.m., July 2, at the Christian Tabernacle Church at 1126 Old Route 66 in St. Robert.