Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. Many historians and scholars consider Jan. 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, as the end of slavery. But it was not until Union troops led by General Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 with General Order #3 that true emancipation was available to all African Americans.
Granger arrived in northern Texas on June 13 and read the proclamation on plantations as he made his way south. Since slaves were freed over the course of several days, the term “Juneteenth” was coined.
Around the nation, various dates in June are set aside to celebrate Juneteenth. The first such celebration consisted of barbequing a goat, the serving of other food and entertainment.
One local celebration will take place on June 9 from 1-6 p.m. at Family Life Center, located at the corner of Portland Avenue and East 48th Street. It is organized by Tacoma City Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and Juneteenth Celebration Committee.
Dorotheus Schaffer, known as Miss Schaffer, is co-chair of the committee. She joined the group in 2006 and became co-chair in 2008.
The first hour of the event will have a greeting, a prayer and pouring of the libation.
Dr. F. Rhoades will give a speech based on the theme of this year’s event: save the children, save our lives. Schaffer said that was selected because so many black youth get swept up in the criminal justice system or lost in the educational system. “We want to put forth more effort to save our children,” she said. Schaffer considers Juneteenth a good way for black youth to learn the history of their people and observe the black community in a positive light. “What they get in the mainstream media can be negative,” she observed.
Carol Mitchell, who is co-host of “CityLine” on TV Tacoma, will be one master of ceremonies. The other will be Amir Abdul-Mateen.
Next up is entertainment. Congo Productions will have a drum circle. Martha Nash, who sang at Carnegie Hall in February, will perform. The ladies of Shiloh Baptist Church will put on a fashion show. Offering commentary on their outfits will be Doris J. Hayes-Clark, who was Miss Washington in 1980. There will also be step teams, drill teams and praise dancers.
Monica’s Bayou Oasis will be serving barbequed ribs, pulled pork, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and gumbo. There will also be a fish fry with fried okra on the side. Free hot dogs will be available for all children under 12.
While Juneteenth celebrates something very important for African Americans, Schaffer stressed that this event is open to everyone. “Please come out and learn about our history,” she remarked.