Celebrating Juneteenth Event lauds freedom, achievement, education

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Those attending Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration at Kelsey Scott Park danced, sang, munched on all kinds of good eats and generally had a good time.
Better still, they were honoring a celebration of freedom.
The Juneteenth Celebration ó Salisbury’s 14th annual ó dates to 1865 when blacks living in Texas found out about the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln to free the slaves.
The holiday, which is celebrated in much the same fashion as the Fourth of July, emphasizes freedom, education and achievement.
“It’s a shame, really, that more people don’t know what it’s all about,” said the Rev. Arthur Heggins, pastor of St. Luke’s Baptist Church on Hawkinstown Road. “There’s a lot of history to it, but really not a lot of understanding.”
Heggins said members of his congregation have participated in the celebration for four of the past five years. He said Eva Brown, one of the members of his congregation, was supposed to have headed this year’s planning for his church, but she recently suffered a stroke.
Heggins said others stepped up to tackle the chore in her honor and absence.
Rick Jefferies is a member of the New Voices of Faith, one of the featured attractions at Saturday’s celebration. Group members are from Mocksville.
Jefferies, one of the vocalists of the New Voices of Faith, watched as his band members backed up Ervin Watts during a gospel rendition during the early afternoon. The New Voices of Faith were scheduled to perform later in the day.
“It’s definitely a worthwhile event,” Jefferies said of the Juneteenth celebration.
He said members of his group perform at the Juneteenth celebration almost every year, and said band members have learned to deal with the heat, which reached the low 90s Saturday.
“Oh, yeah,” Jefferies said, responding when asked if the temperature made band members perspire a tad more than usual. “But it’s this way just about every year.”
Sherry Hawthorne is president of the Juneteenth committee, and noted that the celebration kicked off with a parade and was scheduled to continue until almost dark. A classic car and motorcycle show was part of the scheduled attractions.
Hawthorne said Saturday morning’s parade included more than 60 cars, and the event at Kelsey Scott Park drew 31 vendors who offered everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to fried turkey legs. Other vendors sold a variety of handbags and artworks.
“It’s definitely grown,” Hawthorne said of the size of the celebration. “We try to offer something for just about everyone.”
Roy and Bessie Hairston are from Davidson County’s Petersville Community, which is in Tyro. They said members of their family clan hold a spring fling in early June every year.
Representatives of Salisbury’s Juneteenth celebration attended the Petersville community’s spring fling and invited them to take a trip to Rowan County later in the month. The Hairstons said they gladly obliged.
“They came to support us and we returned the favor,” Bessie Hairston said. “That’s what it’s all about, supporting one another.”