ALTON — Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Major Gen. Gordon Granger, arrived at Galveston, Texas, with news the war had ended and the enslaved were free. Granted, this event occurred two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
The 24th Annual Juneteenth event begins at 11 a.m. and will conclude at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 13, at the James Killion Park (Salu) in Alton.
“The Alton Section-National Council of Negro Women Inc. remains committed to embracing and celebrating the rich diversity of the Alton community,” MCNW co-chair Marquato Rattler said. “This year’s events promise to be more exciting than ever through educational programming and individual projects. Our mission is to create cultural awareness and highlight the rich diversity in the Alton community with a grand celebration. This event is not just for African-Americans to celebrate; it’s for everyone to enjoy and promote the positive racial relationships in our community.”
As each year passes, the Alton Juneteenth celebration has grown and welcomed a more diverse crowd each year.
The opening ceremony at 11 a.m. will include remarks by co-chairs Rattler, Ann Johnson and Abe Barham Jr. Local saxophonist Fred Walker and Minnie Robinson will lift the crowd with the national anthem as well as the pledge of allegiance with Aces4Youth. Apostle Artemese Dennis will give the day’s invocation just before Alton Mayor Brant Walker reads a proclamation.
“We want people to remember our past and recognize our future,” Rattler said. “This is an event for all ages, every race and every person.”
Entertainers for the Juneteenth celebration include a dance routine by the Boys and Girls Club, Caldwell Entertainment Promotions, NGK Band, Calvin Pain, Senior Services Plus aerobics demonstration, Saman and Hayner Public Library puppet show. The Jesse White Tumblers will perform before the “Hool a Hoop” demonstration. 4Ever Young (positive rappers from Alton Middle School) will perform before poet Neil Moffett takes the stage. Ray Cole and the Transformation Praise Dancers will round out the day.
The Juneteenth celebration will have music, food and beverages, a health fair, children’s activities and attendance prizes. Vendors from SIUE dental school, the Alton Fire Department, Universal Art and Language and the Sickle Cell Foundation will have information on site, along with many more.
The Alton Juneteenth Freedom Celebration was founded and organized in 1990 by Minister Joyce Y. Elliott, with the NAACP Alton Youth Council as the committee of origin, succeeded by Alton Area Homecoming and ACHAMPS Ministries.
For information on national Juneteenth day, visit www.juneteenth.com.