Juneteenth parties with a purpose

Posted Monday, Jun. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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For the kids, Mansfield’s Juneteenth meant candy, food, games and jumping in the bounce house. Their parents and grandparents knew there was a lot more to the celebration.

“It’s about history and community, a combination of both, bringing the community together to think about how we got to this point,” said Mansfield resident LeRae Norwood, who has been attending the annual event since it began in 1986. “It’s important, especially for the younger kids. Black history is taught in February, this gives them another chance to learn.”

Juneteenth is held in remembrance of June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers landed in Galveston to deliver the news that the Civil War was over and the slaves had been free for two and a half years, since President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

Mansfield’s event was held for years before dwindling away. The celebration was restarted by Norwood’s inlaws, Brenda and Norman Norwood, and their family. This year’s party drew almost 600 people, a lot more than the first few years when it was mainly family members and friends. A disc jockey played music while children and their parents danced, ate and visited at McClendon Park West on Saturday.

“I had never heard of this until Brenda told me,” said Deborah Robertson, who moved to Mansfield from Los Angeles in 1986 and has attended the event every year. “She told me it celebrated black people’s freedom in one of the last places to do so. I thought it was a great idea.”

Not only have the number of people attending the event changed, so have their ethnicities, Robertson said.

“I appreciate that there are more races out here now than it was, it’s more multicultural,” she said. “Kids don’t understand the sacrifices that were made. It’s good for everybody to learn the history. I think it’s about the community now.”

Skyla Taylor, the Norwoods’ niece, says the history is important, but there’s a different focus now.

“It’s about the community and the future,” said Taylor, who has run the games for children every years since the event started. “We can all come together as one, no matter what color you are.

“People who want to separate, that’s on them,” she said. “We can’t change the past, but we can work on the future.”

Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451

Twitter: @AmandaRogersNM

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