On Saturday, June 18, Colonial Beach will hold its first ever Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom at the Town Hill. The event, which will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., will honor Black history and culture. Admission will be free, and all people are welcome to attend.
Event organizers guarantee that those who attend will not be bored, nor will they go hungry. Local Black-owned businesses, such as Bright Eyes Concessions and Crazy Jack’s BBQ, will prepare food for the event. Experts in Black history will give presentations. Local storytellers will share narratives of the Black experience. There will also be musical performances featuring Black artists, including acts, such as Singer Kid December and DJ Ms. Mary Boone. Visual artists and crafters will display and sell their work, and according to the event organizers, there is still space for more creatives to sign up.
Colonial Beach is but one of thousands of communities across the country that will celebrate Black history on that weekend, and millions of Black Americans have observed Juneteenth annually for over 150 years. But the story behind the holiday is still unknown to many people.
Juneteenth: the back story
Even after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January of 1863, states belonging to the Confederacy continued to uphold the institution for another two years. The enslaved people of Texas were the last to be liberated –over two months after Lee surrendered to Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse.
Juneteenth marks the anniversary of the Union Army’s 1865 arrival in Galveston, Texas. On that day, General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which announced the news of the emancipation to over 250,000 enslaved people. Even still, this was not the date that every enslaved person in America was able to finally claim their freedom. However, millions of Americans view June 19, 1865, as the symbolic end of chattel slavery in the United States.
The tradition of celebrating this holiday began in Texas in 1866 and soon spread outward across the country. But it was not until 2021 that Juneteenth National Independence Day was signed into law as a federal holiday, and this year marks our nation’s second federally recognized Juneteenth.
Recognizing Juneteenth in Colonial Beach
“As a national holiday, it’s good that we are celebrating the equality and freedoms that we have here in the United States of America,” said Colonial Beach Mayor Robin Schick when asked about the upcoming event.
Colonial Beach Town Councilmember Caryn Self Sullivan helped make this local celebration possible. She worked alongside a social justice organization she co-founded called Coming to the Table CBVA to help pull the resources together. Sullivan said her organization seeks to heal the wounds of the past by promoting interracial conversations. Other event organizers include the Westmoreland Branch of the NAACP, a charitable organization called Colonial Beach Greenspace and Colonial Beach Parks and Recreation.
The event is intended to be a joyous celebration of the rich and vibrant aspects of Black culture. However, there will be an effort to acknowledge the harsh reality of racism as an ongoing, institutionalized threat that didn’t just disappear after the abolition of slavery. That is why some time will be dedicated to a “Say Their Names” memorial, which will allow attendees the opportunity to acknowledge the Black men and women who have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement in recent years.
But Councilmember Sullivan wants to make sure people don’t take away the wrong message from this memorial.
“We’re not interested in calling out our local police,” Sullivan said. “We think we have a good police department here.”
It should be noted that Colonial Beach will hold its Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom the day before the federally recognized holiday.