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Central Texans gear up for a weekend celebrating Juneteenth

Posted at 9:34 AM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 10:34:17-04

MCLENNAN COUNTY, TX — Celebrations are lined up for this upcoming Juneteenth weekend.

One of those celebrations began a decade ago, but a lot can change in 10 years.

“When it came to Juneteenth, it would be a smaller event,” explained Sophia Strother, the co-founder of the Juneteenth Family Fun Day and executive director of the Empowerment Driven by Knowledge Coalition.

Hosting a Juneteenth event for the 10th year in a row, may seem like just a blimp in a celebration that’s lasted over 150 years here in Texas.

“It's a great way for us to have some live entertainment, some social services, and to really just celebrate on black and African American accomplishments,” she went on to say.

When thinking about starting a Juneteenth celebration back in 2011, Strother said it was mainly for one reason.

“We’re gonna celebrate,” she exclaimed.

While celebration is a good enough reason to start anything, when 2016 came around, she knew she wanted to take it to the next level.

“We have to create platforms where we can educate all groups of people, because it's not just by people that attend, we have all people that attend and enjoy the celebration with us.”

Her event is just one on the extensive list of weekend to-dos.

“It’s better than a football game, it is a traveling show and celebration so from me I just lose the ability to be conservative and I really celebrate,” said Rachel Pate, the vice president of the Cen-Tex Africian American Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber, based in the East side of Waco, is hosting a parade and looks to hoist the Juneteenth flag off of a Waco fire truck for the very first time in history.

While Juneteenth is a holiday recognized in Texas since the late 1980s, President Joe Biden signed the day into law as a federal holiday, the first one since Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“I’m so glad that in this time of healing and especially in Waco, that that’s something that we can come together and celebrate,” Pate said, explaining the feeling she anticipates to feel as the flag raises into the air.

Both women hope events across the state will create an impact far greater than just a 24-hour remembrance.

“Let’s really celebrate what that meant to this group of people here that helped build this country,” Strother said.

The Juneteenth Family Fun Day will offer education of everything from history to medical information, to also offering social services, like administering COVID-19 vaccines at the event.

The gates open at 2p.m. on Saturday, June 19, but the event itself runs from 4p.m. until 10p.m. at the Brazos Park.

Meanwhile, the Cen-Tex Africian American Chamber of Commerce's parade is slated to begin at 10a.m. with a starting point at Heritage Square in Waco.

In Bell County, the Innovation Black Chamber of Commerce is hosting a virtual 5-K and a day of celebration at the Clements boys and Girls Club starting at 11a.m.