J’Vaughn Johnson, 2, sits on Uncle Wesley Maxwell’s shoulder while watching dad play basketb all during the Juneteenth Festival 2012 at Cahoon Park, Saturday. Mark Wilson Photo
Members of the community gathered Saturday at Cahoon Park to commemorate Juneteenth, coming together as one in a celebration of equality.
Juneteenth marks the day, June 19, 1865, that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with word about the abolition of slavery, two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official.
The day offered a host of fun outdoor activities, including a watermelon eating contest, swimming, sack races, basketball and horseshoe tossing, while delicious free foods like smoked brisket and turkeys filled the park with an irresistible aroma.
Musical performances from church choirs, solo artists, blues bands and rap artists entertained all those who attended throughout the day.
Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell President of Student Affairs Robert Bowman was the event’s featured speaker, and provided a breakdown of what the day is all about.
“The way it confirms in history is that when African-Americans found out they were free, most of them decided to just take off all of their old slave clothes, in exchange for something much better,” Bowman said. “That’s where the celebration really started from: They got rid of the old, and brought in the new.
“… Some people were in shock because they didn’t know anything but slavery. So, many decided to stay with their slaveowners, and became paid employees. Many others left to find family that were in different parts of the South, and many tried to move North, where there was more of an idea of freedom.
“So it was a big change, getting rid of the old and bringing in the new. And that’s what it’s really all about — freedom.”
Audrey Bass, Juneteenth celebration committee treasurer, commented, “This brings everybody together; it’s a day for everyone. We want everybody to enjoy this, and have fun, and get along as one. God didn’t make blue, green, purple and black; he made us all as one. And we shouldn’t be falling apart into one group here or one group there, we should be all as one.”
Mayor Del Jurney delivered a proclamation that championed the end to slavery, and said the day reminds us of what took place in America to bring equality to everyone.
“As Americans, we celebrate the many steps that we’ve taken throughout our history to make sure that we acknowledge and further support equality issues,” Jurney said. “They say that if we don’t acknowledge and pay attention to history and learn from it, then we are doomed to repeat it. So it’s on days like this, remembering our history and learning from it, that allows us to move forward in a positive, productive and successful way for our nation.
“… It’s important for us to remember where we’ve been and what made us the great nation that we are today, and to continue to work — to improve who we are and know what our contribution is to the world.”