Written byRodney Clark, Corporate Vice President, Channel Sales and Channel Chief
The day started out as a normal Saturday June morning – sunny, warm and I remember it was my first free weekend after the school year had ended. As usual, I was the first of my three siblings to rise. Being the youngest, I never wanted to miss anything. The first sign of a not-so typical day was when my sister—who was usually the last to rise on a Saturday—started getting dressed like she was going somewhere important. My oldest brother was not too far behind her, fluffing his afro to perfection and grabbing one last piece of late morning toast before heading out the door. I asked, “Hey, where are you guys going?” My sister replied, “None of your business,” as they kept walking. Just then I hear, “Take your little brother with you,” which was followed by my siblings’ gasps of “Awe ma, do we have to?” Mom came to the rescue again.
I got myself together as quickly as I could as we scuffled off. We approached Bell Street Park, a place where we would often go. But on this day, there were more people there than I had ever seen at the park. Cars lined University Avenue, music was spilling out of the park, there was food, music, fun, and downright energy – there was definitely a celebration happening. I asked my sister, “What’s going on?” She said, “It’s the Juneteenth festival!”
Every year from that point on, I would look forward to the celebration in our small, predominantly African American town – even playing an active role a few years later by prepping for the festivities with my youth baseball organization.
Juneteenth – Freedom Day. The day that news of the Emancipation Proclamation—signed over two years earlier—finally reached the furthest corners of the Confederacy. It was not until I got into high school that I realized and started to appreciate the significance of the celebration. The depth of the meaning set in that day, and I remembered the joy and peace that it brought to our community. I was able to recall powerful speeches that talked not only of our past, but the hope and opportunity ahead.