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We need a real celebration for 150th Juneteenth - The Galveston County Daily News: Guest Columns

August 4, 2015

We need a real celebration for 150th Juneteenth

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Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2014 12:15 am

I was standing in the checkout line in one of our community supermarkets when I overheard two African-American youths discussing Juneteenth.

Both youngsters had witnessed some of the events, but they did not understand how Juneteenth affected them. They hinted that there was no real explanation.

After listening, I realized that as a community and nation, we have missed the mark.

One of the youth said, “Old school, if things are so much better, why is it that so much hatred is aimed at President Obama?”

What could I say?

Even in our community, we do not have a major street or roadway named for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Young blacks notice these things.

We are about to celebrate Independence Day, and we should. However, we should also discuss the fact that the patriots owned slaves.

We should acknowledge that the road to independence and freedom began in 1776. At that time, a republic was born, but there were men and women who were still enslaved.

In 1865, slavery was supposed to have ended, but it did not in the strictest sense because of segregation. Negroes were set free only to endure the horrors of segregation.

However, in our community, there were four brave settlers of The Settlement. They gave African-Americans the opportunity to thrive.

To celebrate Juneteenth in our community and not inform our local youth about this great historical fact is an injustice.

There are many historical stories that could be told if local settlers were given the opportunity. Until the story is told by some individuals who grew up and lived in one of our communities, the celebrations are cosmetic.

It is beneficial to hear the proclamation read, but there are historical stories that could be told to our youth. Each community has its own story. In The Settlement, there are men and women such as the Rev. D.N. Benford Sr., Robert Williams, Vera Bell Gary, Richard Taylor Sr., George Cash and others.

I do not believe that the 150th celebration should take place without the recognition of these Settlement pioneers. We should also include those educators who played a huge role in the progress of our African-American community. Our pastors, community leaders and public officials should make this happen.

There should be a celebration in the West Texas City- La Marque community in conjunction with the grand celebration. We owe this to our youth.