Springfield Unity Parade marks week of Juneteenth

Summary

Annual celebration marks 30th anniversary

Springfield’s annual Juneteenth Unity Parade was held on the morning of Saturday, June 15, kicking off a weekend of entertainment in Comer Cox Park, as part of broader celebrations leading up to the June 19 holiday.

Many city, state and federal officials and representatives were present alongside members of Springfield’s Black community for the parade, which started at 10:00 AM at the intersection of S. Grand Ave. & Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and from there proceeded north to the nearby park. From there parade-goers spent the afternoon enjoying games, food and drink along with live performances, featuring Springfield-born rockstar Morris Day. Festivities continued on Sunday with local bands filling the air with funk, R&B, soul and more until the evening.

Unity Parade-goers in Comer Cox Park

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Juneteenth celebrations in the City of Springfield and its 4th year as a federal holiday, but the occasion has been celebrated far longer: sometimes described as “America’s second Independence Day” (a description acknowledged in its official designation of “Juneteenth National Independence Day”), June 19 marks the conclusion of the mission set out by Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which ordered the liberation of all slaves in rebel territories during the Civil War. General Gordon Granger of the Union Army issued General Order No. 3 on June 19, 1865, enforcing the emancipation of all remaining slaves in the state of Texas. Anniversary celebrations of that event began as early as the year after with a “Jubilee Day” observed by freedmen.

The holiday was not officially acknowledged until 1938, when Texas Governor James Allred acknowledged the holiday in declaring “Emancipation Day” on June 20, in light of June 19 falling that year on a Sunday. The holiday steadily spread as the Civil Rights movement gained traction, and has thus become synonymous with the struggle to end racism in the United States.

Despite – or because of – its history, the holiday continues to attract opposition; at the City’s May 14th Committee of the Whole meeting, Cherena Douglass of Juneteenth, Inc. recalled the celebration being recently dismissed by public commenters on social media as a “made-up holiday.”

“Please, somebody tell me of any ‘natural’ holiday,” Douglass told the City. “Every holiday is made up. A holiday is you, people, a community, paying homage to what they think is important.”

And to the community of Springfield, and especially the Black community of Springfield, that occasion is important: Juneteenth celebrations are an opportunity to highlight the people of color of the City and to promote their talent, their business, their needs and causes.

Juneteenth community celebrations will continue this coming week, concluding with the Future Leaders breakfast and an art exhibition at the Dana Thomas House.

Stage at Comer Cox Park, June 15

Part of Juneteenth Unity Parade procession

Juneteenth Unity Parade, 2024

Musicians perform at Juneteenth celebration, June 15 2024

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