Al Edwards’ Juneteenth Banquet

Former state Rep. Al Edwards, left, Councilwoman Cornelia Harris Banks and state Rep. Sylvester Turner visit Tuesday at the 18th annual Al Edwards’ Juneteenth Banquet at the Old Central Cultural Center.


State Rep. Sylvester Turner, speaking at the island’s Juneteenth banquet, was telling a story about his mother.

She raised nine children in a two-bedroom house on Starling Street in Houston.

She kept the family together after the death of her husband, working as a maid at the old Rice Hotel. She’d get up very early to get the kids ready for school. Then she’d go to work. Then she’d come home and do all the things it took to keep the family going.

Turner told how his mom signed the note, allowing him to borrow money to go to law school.

Her children did well.

Turner is one of the most influential men in Texas. And as her children did well, they had children of their own and grand children.

And Turner’s mom insisted that they all come home to the little house on Starling Street for every big day in the year.

Along the way, some of the children suggested that — well, there were bigger houses in the family, and with so many people ….

But Turner said his mom wouldn’t have it.

No, that little house on Starling was where it all began. That’s where they needed to be.

And so it is with Juneteenth. Slavery in the United States ended on June 19, 1865. It didn’t end in Boston or Concord, Mass., or Yorktown, Va., or any other historic city.

It ended in Galveston.

And when slavery finally ended, something started — a grass roots tradition of celebrating freedom, of being joyful, of being thankful — not in some cerebral or theoretical way but with friends and family.

That celebration started in Galveston.

And while Juneteenth is celebrated all across the world today, Galveston is home.

Think of that as Galveston County folks celebrate Juneteenth during the next couple of weekends.

Think how good it would be if we could get some of those folks who are celebrating in every state to come home next year for the 150th anniversary.

Why not invite people, as the late Ennis Williams Jr. used to say, to “Come home to where it all began”?

Why not invite a million people?

• Heber Taylor

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