Juneteenth celebration set for Saturday

Published 2:13 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2016

It’s difficult to build a future without understanding your past.

That is the wisdom that several members of the Butler County community are hoping to impart to the youth this weekend during the annual Juneteenth Festival, held at the Hank Williams Pavilion in Georgiana.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the Confederate South.

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Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, remains a momentous occasion for African Americans throughout the South, but being Southern or African American is hardly required to celebrate the event.

Juneteenth celebrations typically involve the singing of traditional songs, cookouts and, perhaps most importantly, reflecting on the progress made in African-American culture.

Georgiana’s fourth Juneteenth celebration doesn’t aim to buck those trends, according to Al McKee, former president of the Alabama New South Coalition Butler County chapter.

“One of our members, Joann Tilman, who hails from California, came back here to enlighten us all about Juneteenth,” McKee said.

“She used to live here in the 1960s, and she gave us all a chance to learn about it, study on it and dance to the music, and we’ve been keeping it going ever since.”

The organization also held a contest for youth in grades 9-12, charging them with the task of penning an essay of 500 words or less on the subject of where African-American culture is now versus where it was.

The topic could be as broad or narrow as the writer wished, with a $100 first-place prize, a $50 second-place prize and $25 for third place.

“We are giving away hamburgers and hotdogs.  The hamburgers were donated by the Butler County Sheriff’s Department,” McKee said.

“Anybody who wants to set up a booth to sell fish sandwiches, barbecue sandwiches or any other kind of wares can do so.  All we’re selling are liquids, including water and cold drinks. We have a DJ, Lt. Waters, a police officer from Georgiana.  We’re going to have Mayor (Jerome) Antone do the welcome, and the keynote speaker will be Rev. White of Pilgrim Rest.”

The celebration will kick off from the Hank Williams Pavilion at 10 a.m.