This year’s holidays and celebrations have looked different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Juneteenth being no exception.
Juneteenth is a national holiday that celebrates June 19, 1865 when the last remaining slaves in the United States were liberated. Originally, Juneteenth was a Texas state holiday, as Texas was the last state to free slaves, but now it is celebrated annually throughout the country. In the past, Lubbock residents have celebrated Juneteenth with an annual parade with other activities in Mae Simmons and Mackenzie Park, however, due to COVID-19, those festivities were cancelled.
Celebrations of Juneteenth were moved to the Casp Gallery and LHUCA plaza. Members of the community decided Juneteenth was too important to not celebrate and organized a smaller event.
Alexis White, one of the organizers for the moved Juneteenth event, said she does not think the original event should have been canceled.
“The fourth of July wasn’t cancelled, other events were postponed,” White said. ”I think we could have at least moved it, it’s an important event for the community that shouldn’t have been cancelled.”
White said her friend, Danielle East, reached out to her to plan a Juneteenth celebration in place of the canceled event.
“I think it’s a really important event for our community,” East said. “Especially with everything that is going on in the world right now, it’s important to learn about black culture.”
East and White said they had many people from the community join to organize and volunteer at the event.
“We have music, performers, with free food and lots of vendors out today,” East said. “We also have a panel at 12:30 today.”
East said the panel featured many Lubbock locals: Evelyn East as the moderator, Alexis White, Willie Turner, Leon Williams, Nathaniel Wright, Maeco Moore and Phyllis Gant.
Evelyn East started the panel off by reading the proclamation that was read to the slaves in Texas in 1865: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor."
The panel discussed various topics related to the holiday, like some of their earliest experiences with Juneteenth and what the legacy of Juneteetnth meant to them. The panel also discussed current issues like how to educate people on oppression and systematic racism.
Gant discussed during the panel how Texas has a negative connotation to her as black women. She said she is glad to see some progress being made in the community and would like to see the legacy of Juneteenth to be all people coming together to learn and gain knowledge on the holiday.
“So we can break down and destroy barriers between us,” Gant said. “That’s the legacy I want to pass on.”
In addition to the panel and vendors, the We Here Black Women Art Collective was featured in the Casp Gallery with various photographs and other art pieces.
“We want people to understand what blackness and being a person of color is like,” East said, discussing what she wants people to gain from the celebration. “We want people to know how to celebrate that identity. A lot of people think ‘oh it’s so sad to be black or a person of color,’ but it’s actually not.”