Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Now a Federal Holiday, Oxford’s Juneteenth Celebration is ‘Extra Special’ This Year

The “Color our Town” Juneteenth poster event is going on Thursday evening on the Square as part of the weeklong Juneteenth celebration that culminates with the main celebration on Saturday, June 19, at the Oxford Intermediate School parking lot. Photos provided by YAC

Folks living in the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive neighborhood have been gathering with friends and family for more than a decade to celebrate Juneteenth.

The event got bigger each year from a small neighborhood block party as more community members joining in on the celebration. Even the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop organizers last year from creating safe ways to celebrate the day.

But this year’s event took on an even more special meaning Thursday with President Joe Biden signing a resolution establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a U.S. holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

In past years, the Oxford Juneteenth event took place either on June 19 or the closest weekend.

Cecelia Webb, event organizer, says this year’s event is even more special since Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday Thursday.

This year, the holiday has been celebrated with events scattered throughout the week and will culminate on Saturday with the main celebration.

“It makes it even more special for us,” said organizer Cecelia Webb. “We’ve worked really hard the last 12, 13 years putting it together, and it just feels good. It’s exciting for us. It’s exciting for the world.”

The Juneteenth Celebration kicked off last Saturday with the Linen on the Lawn event at Old Armory Pavilion and continued on Tuesday with free public Double Decker bus tours. Today, folks were on the Square listening to live music and coloring Juneteenth posters.

An online scavenger hunt is currently going on that will close at 9 p.m. on Saturday. Prizes will be awarded to those with the highest number of correct answers. In the event of a tie, those with the highest scores will be entered into a drawing to win prizes.

The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council has joined with the Oxford Juneteenth group to help organize many of the events.

Oxford Juneteenth Celebration started about 12 years ago as a neighborhood block party and has grown into a large, community event.

“YAC recognizes that celebrating the roles, contributions, and talents of all members of a community is a cornerstone for building equity and engagement,” said YAC Director Wayne Andrews.

Originating in Galveston, Texas, Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary date of June 19, 1865, when Union Major Gen. Gordon Granger landed in the city with news that the Civil War had ended and slaves were now free. It is considered to be the official end to slavery in the United States.

For more information, visit Oxford Juneteenth on Facebook.

To sign up for the online scavanger hunt, click here.