Juneteenth celebration returns to Vicksburg

Published 8:11 pm Thursday, June 14, 2018

Juneteenth started as a celebration in Texas, but it’s become a celebration that is recognized as a state holiday, ceremonial holiday, or a day of observance in 45 of 50 states.

It marks the day that Union troops delivered the message of the Emancipation Proclamation to those still enslaved in Texas, and the celebration that followed became a yearly event in the United States.

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There hasn’t been an official Juneteenth celebration in Vicksburg since 2003, but Ezell McDonald is bringing it back Saturday to City Park Pavilion, 900 Lee Street.

The event, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., is free and will feature a day full of entertainment, with speakers, gospel singing, poetry, rap, R&B, soul and blues music, a stepping team, historical recollections and African dancing all planned. There will also be food and arts and crafts vendors and a kids zone with a bouncy-house. 

McDonald was originally in charge of the celebration from 1999-2003.

“After a long hiatus, I decided to restart it, and we’re looking forward to people coming out and having a good time,” McDonald said.

The celebration is sponsored by the Rites of Passage Society and the city of Vicksburg. McDonald is thankful for the participation promised by the community thus far.

“It’s been wonderful, we have quite a bit of people who are participating,” McDonald said.

McDonald sees Juneteenth’s importance as more than just a celebration. She also views it as a way for the young people in the community to learn more about their background.

“It’s very important for the youth to learn about their history, not just about slavery, but the parts that took place before slavery,” McDonald said. “We talk about African American history, but mostly about slavery. We have a history before slavery, before we came to America, and it’s a great history. Something they should be proud of, of whom their ancestors were.”

McDonald also views Juneteenth as a great way to bring the community together, and help it moving forward as well.

“I think celebrating period is good,” McDonald said. “I call it ‘fellowshipping,’ coming together, having a good time when you don’t have problems, or conflicts just learning about each other.

“I think this country would be better off if we understood each other, and in order to understand each other, we have to know who we are, where we came from and know ourselves first,” McDonald continued. “If we know ourselves, we can become better people, better in the community, be more productive. For me, it’s important for everyone to know everyone’s history.”