Juneteenth: A Historical Celebration

Recent partnership with the National Park Service to revitalize our neighborhood’s own Sherman Reservation inspired Nikki Lewis to reinstate an annual Juneteenth Celebration here on Glass Street. Our program held Sunday, June 19 was a great success featuring jazz and gospel music and a hot dog picnic up at the historic battlefield. With the assistance of DeMarcus Boyce of Big Brothers Big Sisters and Janell Billingy, Nikki was able to get Channel 9 News coverage for the event, which attracted around 60 adult residents and many area youth who have been participating in this summer’s Active Trails outings. Two of Glass House Collective’s regular participants, Ziara Thompson and Shayla Stubbs introduced themselves to guests and served as official event greeters.

Ten GHC volunteers helped shuttle residents up the hill, and two neighbors, Sharon Amos and Martin Wilson opened their home on Lightfoot Mill Road just two doors down from the access road entrance (despite the closed road sign, foot traffic is welcome). Their residence operated as a makeshift welcome center, collecting trash and providing restrooms. Using electrical power from their home made it much easier to serve up the hot dogs, chips, and water enjoyed by attendees.


Covering eras from the past, present, and future visions, the line-up included three speakers, three poets, and two musical performances, with the National Park Service putting on a reenactment dressed as Union Soldiers. Dr. Clark White, a long-term resident from Orchard Knob, reenacted a slave auction involving several young people, bringing the history of slavery to life for them through participation.


On June 19, 1865, the last of the enslaved population in the United States received word that the institution of slavery had been legally abolished. Because of their distance on the western frontier, Texas slaves didn’t hear about the January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation until two in a half years later. Now many communities hold Juneteenth celebrations to commemorate the end of slavery.

We hope to make Juneteenth an annual event on Glass Street, as the kids especially enjoyed it. The program attracted culturally diverse representation, and provided historical education while building identity confidence. A couple of days before June 19, Gail McKeel bought dashikis for the kids. One of our GHC regulars, Shemari McKibbin, wears his often now, connecting with his heritage as he boldly faces the future. Overall, the Juneteenth event managed to shed light on history while retaining a fun, celebratory atmosphere.

Written by: Whitni McDonald


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