Juneteenth event organizers in Lafayette have curated an array of family-friendly and educational events to commemorate the liberation holiday this weekend, even as projected tropical weather has necessitated changes to the event schedule.
Juneteenth celebrates the anniversary of Union soldiers arriving in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. Upon arrival, they informed enslaved Black Americans the Civil War had ended in April and they had been freed under President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation roughly two years earlier. They were the last enslaved population to learn the news because of Confederate control of Texas.
While slavery was formally outlawed with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, Juneteenth is recognized as a day of liberation and an opportunity to celebrate African Americans’ freedom and achievements, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
This year, the federal government and the state of Louisiana both acknowledged Juneteenth as a holiday and Lafayette Consolidated Government recognized Juneteenth with a proclamation.
Abram Freeman, president of the SWLA Juneteenth Committee, has been helping celebrate Juneteenth in the region since he moved to Acadiana from Texas in 2008.
He and the committee have been active for 12 years partnering with groups such as Lafayette’s NAACP chapter to host events that appeal to community members of all backgrounds and increase investment in the liberty and success of all communities in Lafayette, he said.
“We’ve seen where the community has invested in talking about Juneteenth at their dinner tables and in the workplaces and that’s what we really wanted to do,” Freeman said. “With any disparaging moment, in either the country or an individual life, the way to heal is to talk about it. We’re trying to get people to talk about it,” he said.
Freeman mentioned this year’s Juneteenth events slate features a little something for everyone, from community-centric celebrations to educational and civic programs.
Sharon Patterson, a Lafayette NAACP member and Juneteenth 2021 event coordinator, said the freedom celebration is a great opportunity to look at current issues that impede residents from experiencing a free and just existence, like gentrification, an issue that largely impacts Black residents and Black neighborhoods, she said.
Juneteenth is built around the values of justice and fairness; values that still need defending today, Patterson said. The day is a celebration, but is also much more than a holiday printed on a calendar.
“We can’t just have a token holiday without some real changes. It’s a start but it’s certainly not the end result. It’s not just another day to take off,” Patterson said.
Patterson said the groups have worked together to rain-proof many of the events as a tropical system is projected to bring heavy rains to south Louisiana Friday and Saturday, moving outdoor events to the Clifton Chenier Center after securing an extension on their venue booking.
On Saturday, there are daylong offerings beginning with an 8 a.m. Father-Son/Father-Daughter breakfast at St. Anthony Church Hall at 615 Edison St. followed by a 10 a.m. Gentrification and Reparations workshop sponsored by Sun Community Housing Development Organization at the Clifton Chenier Center.
Acts of Love Christian Fellowship, led by Freeman, is offering free lunch, snacks and fun from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 104 Blue Boy Drive in Scott, followed by a Family Fun Day hosted by the Imani Temple #49 from noon to 5:30 p.m. at the Clifton Chenier Center. The events will cap off with a commemorative event hosted by Move the Mindset also at the Clifton Chenier Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Independently, AcadianaBlack is hosting a Juneteenth block party downtown at Rêve Coffee Roasters’ Jefferson Street location from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday with live music, local vendors and a raffle.
Elsewhere in Acadiana, the newly formed Garon Paul Atkinson Lewis Foundation is kicking off its community work with a weekend of Juneteenth celebrations in New Iberia, beginning with a Friday banquet. Event listings are available at gpalfoundation.org/juneteenth.
In Opelousas, the Rural African American Museum is marking the holiday with a ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday with attorney Glenn Armentor and his firm, who are making a $5,000 donation to support the museum’s operations.