Juneteenth, now a federal holiday, brings history and fun

With a strong heritage in the African American community, it’s not surprising that Juneteenth will be celebrated in a big way in Fort Worth.

In fact, there are so many celebrations they can’t be contained in a single day, with observances beginning Wednesday (June 16) and running through June 25.

The actual Juneteenth holiday, of course, is June 19 – and it’s now a federal holiday, thanks to the efforts of 95-year-old Opal Lee, Fort Worth educator, community activist and 2022 Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Culminating a decades-long campaign led by Lee, who is often called “the grandmother of Junteenth,” President Joe Biden signed legislation last June making Juneteenth the 11th federal holiday.

Juneteenth is a commemoration of June 19, 1865, when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger delivered an announcement to slaves in Texas that they were freed. Though the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, enforcement relied upon the advancement of Union troops.

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Here is a rundown of some of the celebrations that are planned:

City of Fort Worth celebration

The City of Fort Worth’s Juneteenth Celebration will feature a historical presentation, a dance program and inspiring musical performances by a choir consisting of city employees.

The celebration can be viewed live from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday on FWTV and the city’s YouTube channel. The program is presented by the City of Fort Worth Diversity & Inclusion Employee Committee and its volunteer Juneteenth planning group.

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“Fort Worth is extremely proud to count the legacy of Juneteenth as a national holiday in the United States of America, to Ms. Opal Lee and the resilience, community, and love of Panther City people and Americans everywhere,” said Christina A. Brooks, Director of the Department of Diversity and Inclusion for the city.

“In honor of our collective ancestors, we must continue to be accountable for ensuring American freedom and celebrate our progress together,” she said.

Jim Austin Online celebration

Jim Austin Online will feature a plethora of Juneteenth celebrations over the span of almost two weeks. The National Juneteenth Virtual Heritage Festival begins Wednesday, June 15, and runs through June 25.

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It all begins with the kickoff Mega-Mixer at Texas Live!, 1650 E. Randol Mill Rd. in Arlington, on Wednesday, June 15. Business owners and professionals are encouraged to attend this area-wide networking event. Attendees will enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and door prizes. World famous “Mr. T” Impersonator Sterling Hunter will be the guest speaker for the evening. This event is free to attend, but reservations are required.

On Thursday, June 16, Tarrant County College alumni will be honored at the Juneteenth Legends Awards Gala benefiting the Tarrant County College Foundation. This night of music and recognition at the Isis Theatre, 2401 N. Main St. in downtown Fort Worth, will raise funds for the TCCD Scholarship Fund. This year’s honorees are Chef Karriem (business/entrepreneurial), Leon Bridges (arts and entertainment), Dr. Carrie Tunson (education), Lillie Biggins (health care), Nicole Collier (politics) and Dr. Gwen Morrison (Capstone Award/Ms. Erma Johnson Hadley Award).

Jazz Saxophonist Joseph Vincelli will provide the evening’s entertainment. Tickets are $45 for General Admission and $75 for VIP.

Howard Hill’s Yesterday’s Children Show & Review will light up the stage at the Isis Theatre on Friday, June 17. This BYOB event is a foot-stomping southern soul and blues musical review, and a local fan favorite. VIP tickets are $75 and general admission tickets are $35.

On Saturday, June 18, internationally renowned motivational speaker and entrepreneur Stedman Graham will be the featured speaker at The Warehouse, 1125 E. Berry St. in Fort Worth, during an event running from 4-6 p.m. Graham is the best-selling author of several self-help books, including “You Can Make It Happen: A Nine Step Plan for Success and Identity” and “Leadership: To Lead Others, You Must First Lead Yourself.”

During his tenure with B&C Associates, a public relations firm, Graham worked on behalf of black causes and represented such high-profile clients as Maya Angelou and Winnie Mandela. Graham is also the founder of Athletes Against Drugs, a nonprofit organization that provides services to youth and has awarded over $1.5 million in scholarships since its founding in 1985. It also arranged for sports figures to educate children about substance abuse. He is a member of the Indiana Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Tickets are $25, youth; $40, general admission; and $85 for VIP.

The annual Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo: Texas Connection Series charges into Cowtown Coliseum on Saturday with shows at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for youth, $25-$40 for adults and $60 for VIP.

The activities return to the Isis Theatre on Sunday when “Finally, Free at Last!” will be performed live onstage. Writer and director Dion Hood’s musical is the story of how Texas slaves did not know that they were free until after the war ended in the spring of 1865, and Union Gen. Granger arrived in Galveston in June to announce freedom for the state’s 250,000 enslaved people and Juneteenth was born.

Showtimes are 3 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $30 at the door and $55 for VIP. Children 12 and under are $12.

The celebrations conclude on Saturday, June 25 with the Juneteenth Health Expo. Families and individuals are encouraged to come out for free COVID screenings and booster shots from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at The Warehouse. The free event will also feature entertainment and prize drawings. Vendor booths are also available.

Program donations will benefit the National Multicultural Western Heritage and Tarrant County College Foundation. All events (excluding the Stedman Graham presentation) are both in-person and streaming. For more information on vendor booths and sponsorships, or to purchase tickets, contact Lucinda Harvey at receptionist@jimaustinonline.com or call 817-923- 9305.

More information about Juneteenth events can be found under the Juneteenth tab at eventbrite.com.

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