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Members of the Aces 4 Youth group lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance during the 2015 Juneteenth celebration in Alton.
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Businesses and vendors were represented during the 2015 Juneteenth celebration. Health, business, craft and food vendors will be part of the 25th anniversary of the Alton celebration on June 18.
ALTON — The Greater Alton community is honoring the 151st anniversary of the Juneteenth celebration, along with 25 years of recognizing the occasion in Alton.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 18, the public is invited to participate in a full day of Juneteenth festivities at James H. Killion Park. Hosted by the Alton Section of the National Council of Negro Women and coordinated by Marquato Rattler, Anne Johnson, Carolyn Thompson and Abe Barham, residents are asked to gather in honor of the historic Juneteenth event.
“History occurs 365 days a year for every American,” Barham said. “This event is for everyone, not just for African-Americans. If we want to move forward, we don’t forget about the past; we learn from it. Events in history and recognition time periods like Black History Month are not just for one group; they are for everyone so people can learn and keep history from repeating itself. We want Americans of all colors to come and learn about each other’s past.”
The main entertainment features the Jesse White Tumblers, with an appearance by Alton native and Secretary of State Jesse White. Senior Services Plus will present its aerobic group as well as Anointed Spirit of Praise, saxophonist Fred Walker, Saman, Big Brock Jr., Avono 6, Final Chapter and the 4Ever Young rap group. The Omega Phi Si Steppers and the 618 group from Alton High School will appear.
Children’s entertainment will include a rock-climbing wall, a bounce house, petting zoo and crafts. Health, food, craft exhibitors and vendors will offer demonstrations and speak with guests about topics and products.
Juneteenth commemorates the day when Americans of African descent learned of their freedom in Texas, the last state in rebellion following the end of the Civil War. On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, Union Gen. Gordon Granger read General Order No. Three, that “all slaves are free” by proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Lincoln on Dec. 22, 1862, to take effect on Jan. 1, 1863. It took more than two years for the news of freedom to travel to southwest Texas.
“This is a great opportunity for our community to come together,” Barham said. “What we have is unique and we don’t want a Ferguson or Baltimore in our own back yards. We need to be a community that talks to one another. We want to be one. Asking everyone to come and be together as one is another way to make and be a part of history.”
Rattler, one of the organizers, released a statement that the celebration is about family, history and uniting as a country.
“The Juneteenth celebration is highly informative and entertaining, the festivities provides a great environment and a relaxed, positive atmosphere where families throughout the Greater Alton region can learn about the richness of our heritage and the many contributions of African-Americans to the growth and development of the United States of America. People can come share in how valuable our freedom was yesterday, is today and will be tomorrow.”
Barham added that two petitions will be sent to President Barack Obama asking that Juneteenth be made a national independence day and establishing a Presidential National Juneteenth Commission. The second petition asks that the Flag of Freedom be placed on a stamp in honor of the annual celebration. Both petitions will be available to sign during the celebration on June 18.
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