You know we live in a time when the word “history” seems to mean the far past, but that’s not always the way it actually is. At my age, I’m getting a chance to see history made.
I was fortunate to be in attendance at the Million Man March on Oct. 16, 1995, where more than 1 million African-American men answered the call in Washington, D.C., to face the past and to look toward to the future.
From that experience, the promise that I and the others made was that we would all come home and use our power to change communities from their negative ways to give people a more positive outlook on life.
So, here we are on June 16, 2014 — almost 20 years later — I’m proud to say we have come a long way. You see, I have to ask you this question before we go any further: When was the last time you read or heard of a gang shooting or even a gang fight in Galveston in the last four, five or even six years? Think hard.
Present day history brings me to this Juneteenth. Halfway through the celebration, you have had the Juneteenth Pageant that went off without a hitch, then we had the Al Edwards Banquet, James Josey Family Day, Sam Collins had Frederick Douglass, Harriett Tubman and Abraham Lincoln at Stringfellow Orchards for the Family Day celebration, then there was Gospel By the Sea’s 13th annual celebration.
That’s just the first half of what is yet to come.
Today, the Galveston Historical Foundation will host “The Making of the Underground Rail Road from Slavery to Freedom” for children from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Menard Hall, 33rd Street and Ave. O.
On Thursday, we’ll have the 35th annual Al Edwards Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation breakfast at Ashton Villa, the Annie Mae Charles Picnic at Wright Cuney Park and the second annual celebration at Jack Johnson Park. To end the day, Reedy Chapel will have its Historic March and Inspirational Program at 6 p.m. at the church.
Now for the real news that makes me more than happy to talk about that will take place Saturday. To start the day, there will be a ceremony at the gazebo behind Ashton Villa at 24th Street and Sealy Avenue at 8:30 a.m. where Dr. Roland Meyers and the National Black Veterans of the U.S. Military will have its annual Flag Raising Ceremony.
At 10 a.m., the real historical event will be at 22nd Street and The Strand, where there will be a Texas Historical Marker Dedication in commemoration of Juneteenth. This was the sight in which slaves first learned that they were free. Gen. Gordon Granger read Articles 1 through 5 — the most important to the slaves was Article 3 — that President Abraham Lincoln had signed into law some two years earlier that was the Emancipation Proclamation.
This is the real history — not only for Galveston but this is the true story of history for the United States of America. And until we can really embrace our true history, we can’t breathe easy with each other.
Leon Phillips II lives in Galveston.