Eighteen years of writing “On Faith” has helped me track ways in which certain ideas, trends and activities change with time and more information.
One such thing is awareness of Juneteenth, a mashup of the date June 19 that commemorates true adoption of the Emancipation Proclamation.
In the late 1990s, awareness of the observance was minimal. Knowledge of it came from past experiences or study of Ralph Ellison’s unfinished second novel, “Juneteenth.”
Since 1999, the state of Iowa has recognized Juneteenth, and community-wide celebrations have become well established throughout the country.
That includes the Cedar Valley. In Waterloo, the Black Hawk County Chapter of the NAACP will host a Juneteenth celebration from 1 to 6 p.m. June 17 at Sullivan Park.
The annual event is free and open to the community. It includes food, vendors, entertainment and activities for people of all ages. For more information or to inquire about vendor space, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier that day, a Peace Walk will kick off the metro area Juneteenth celebration. Walkers will congregate at noon near Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence 1224 Mobile St., Waterloo.
Walk organizers are the Rev. Belinda Creighton-Smith and Marvin Spencer. In a prepared statement, they noted that 152 years after Junteenth began, the day has become about more than marking an anniversary.
“(It also symbolizes) the liberation of all human beings from whatever shackles or ailments that have been imposed upon us,” the wrote. “We are calling on clergy, citywide missions, human rights groups, dancers, rappers, neighborhood associations, choir groups, youth groups, drill teams, lay leaders, … schools, churches, Muslims, veterans, motorcycle clubs (and) social organizations to put on your organization’s T-shirt and join the walk for unity and peace in our community.”
On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived at Galveston, Texas, and pressed enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. Elsewhere, the document, which freed enslaved people of African descent, went into effect Jan. 1, 1863.
According to historical records from churches, cultural areas and other sources, Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas as early as 1866.
Juneteenth became an official Texas state holiday in 1980. It took 11 years for Florida to become the second state to observe Juneteenth. Oklahoma (1994), Minnesota (1996), Delaware (2000) and Idaho and Alaska (2001) followed.
In 2002, Iowa became the ninth state to officially recognize Juneteenth on the third Saturday in June.
Today, 45 states have passed legislation recognizing Juneteenth. Those that haven’t are South Dakota, North Dakota, Hawaii, Montana and New Hampshire, according to National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.
Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at email@example.com.