Juneteenth celebrated in Ruston

By Emma Stone

Ruston’s third annual Juneteenth Celebration was sponsored by Zion Traveler Community Development Corporation, the Real Change in Ruston Committee and the City of Ruston. 

The event featured food vendors, musicians, arts and crafts as well as a Kids’ Zone on Saturday from 6:30-9 p.m. 

Downtown Ruston’s Railroad Park was full of dancing where performing artists included Kelontae Gavin, James Fortune, Cornelius Jackson and the choir.

Juneteenth is recognized as a federal and city holiday. The word combines June and Nineteenth to honor the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans. 

“It is a very special day for us to have,” said Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker. “We appreciate all the community support.”

When it came to deciding who was to perform, The Real Change in Ruston Committee determined which artists were going to come.

This year, they decided to host an Independent Gospel Artist Competition that hosted four regional competitions leading up to Juneteenth. 

Artists performed at Zion Baptist Travel Church, Mt. Harmony Baptist Church, The Bridge Church and Temple Baptist Church. 

The winning gospel independent artist, Cornelius Jackson, was then given the opportunity to open for the Juneteenth celebration. 

George Lee, board member for Real Change in Ruston’s planning committee and pastor of The Springs church, expressed his love for taking part in bringing the community together. 

“When you see the community as a whole to come out and participate in an event like this,” said Lee. “It just speaks volumes.”

Shenika Whitaker, an attendee and Shreveport resident, felt moved by the diverse performances each artist brought to the event.

“The event in Ruston was simply amazing,” said Whitaker. 

Whitaker had traveled from Shreveport to Ruston despite the other events going on in her home city. 

“In appreciation for the presentation, the city of Ruston gave in honor of Juneteenth deserves a round of applause,” said Whitaker. “I really appreciate the remembrance of my ancestors and being able to celebrate their sacrifices not just among African-Americans but all cultures.”

As each musician brought gospel singing, weather caused the event to end earlier than planned. However, the Real Change in Ruston Committee hopes to have brighter skies for next year.