Juneteenth unifies, brings community together 

Personal column by Judith Roberts

President Abraham Lincoln released the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which declared an end to slavery in the United States – however, that end was not immediate. It would be over two years later when slaves in Galveston, Texas, received the news that their freedom had been won, and they were slaves no more. 

Juneteenth is a celebration of that last stronghold breaking, the celebration of freedom for all citizens residing in America. It was observed in various communities across the country since that time, but it was only declared a federal holiday in 2021, which is when Ruston celebrated its first Juneteenth as a community.  

This week our parish is filled with events that celebrate Black history and the freedom that has been issued but also to note the steps that still need to be taken. The city of Grambling is hosting events every day leading up to June 19, the official Juneteenth holiday, including a community-wide prayer service on Wednesday and a 5K run and a Juneteenth parade on Saturday. 

Ruston also is kicking off the event this Saturday with a Juneteenth celebration from 5-9 p.m. in Railroad Park. From kids’ activities to a unity choir to food trucks and more, it’s a family-friendly event that celebrates all the good in our community – and what great things we do have in our parish. Gospel artists Zacardi Cortez, Lasha’ Knox, Jimmy Hicks and Monica Lisa Stevenson will perform, and tickets, which are $5, are available online at https://bit.ly/2022rustonjuneteenth.  

As we reflect this week, let’s all take the time to educate ourselves more. Talk to people who come from a different background than you. Go to some Juneteenth events. Search for books written by minorities at the library. Find out more through Zion Traveler Community Development Corporation and Real Change in Ruston and discover what changes are happening in our parish — and how you can help.

Make plans this Saturday to attend the Juneteenth festivities, whether in Grambling or Ruston – or both. Bring some suncreen, some water, and get ready to have a good time. Let’s build our community up, celebrate what Juneteenth means and show how we can be unified in our desire to continue the progress we have made as a parish.  

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