By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Gadsden residents are invited to celebrate Juneteenth, as WMGJ Radio sponsors the 27th annual commemoration of the end of slavery at the Carver Community Center on June 22.
Events kick off with a motor parade at 12 p.m. that will begin at Fourth Street on Tuscaloosa Avenue and make its way to Carver Community Center. Other festivities will start at 1 p.m.
Music and entertainment begins at 1 p.m. Entertainment includes gospel, hip-hop and R&B performers. The Spiritual-Aires, the Joyful-Aires and Loretta Jones are scheduled to perform. There will also be jewelry, craft, clothing and food vendors.
There will also be a health and wellness fair featuring CED Mental Health, Quality of Life Health Services, Enrestoration, Gadsden Regional Medical Center, Riverview Regional Medical Center, the Council on Aging and others. There will be blood pressure checks, health screenings and other health information available.
Organizers said some community service activities are planned as well.
City of Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton presented a proclamation at June 18’s city council meeting declaring the day Juneteenth in Gadsden. He thanked WMGJ Owner Floyd Donald and organizers for keeping the celebration alive in the city through the decades.
According to the web site Juneteenth.com, Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery. The commemoration dates back to 1865, when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas on June 19 with the news that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were free. The news reached Texas more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
There are stories of why the news reached Galveston so belatedly, according to Juneteenth.com. One is of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the freedom message; yet another contends that the news was deliberately held back to maintain the labor force on Texas plantations. Another holds that federal troops waited so cotton farmers could get one last harvest in before taking the news to Texas.