By Jimmy Stroud
Kudos to the Twin Cities Juneteenth Celebration, Inc. and their many volunteers for another safe and successful Juneteenth event held at North Mississippi Regional Park in Minneapolis on June 16, 2012.
As I roamed around the park taking hundreds of event photographs — 548 to be precise — I was able to talk and listen to many people who fully embraced the festivities and a few complainers with one foot in and one foot out, so to speak. I heard everything from “What happened to the parade and the 10K run?” to “This park is great and has a lot of stuff for children to do here.”
The Juneteenth celebration is a day that remembers the slaves in Galveston, Texas who were told slavery was abolished two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. That means the Juneteenth celebration is about freedom. So let us remember and make room for freedom of opinion and speech of those people who attend and critique Juneteenth celebrations anywhere.
Guess what? Everybody has a point of view. Unfortunately, some opinions are formed with limited or incorrect information. Many times people are uncomfortable with change and reject new ideas.
I first learned about Juneteenth 26 years ago, when I was asked to be the master of ceremonies (emcee) on the one little stage set up in the back of the Oak Park Community Center in North Minneapolis, located at 1701 Oak Park Avenue in the heart of North Minneapolis. I was proud to be invited, yet immediately felt like I should have learned about the history of Juneteenth in elementary school, especially when Abraham Lincoln’s name came up during history class.
I can remember how much fun it was introducing the entertainment in the hot sun all day long. I remember the vendors and how jam packed the two-way streets were in that area.
From 1986 to about 1994 I showed up every year looking forward to being the emcee and taking it all in. I even sat on the committee for two years and then realized how challenging it is to raise money and pull all those people together to make it happen.
So when I heard that Juneteenth was moving to Glenwood Avenue North to Wirth Park, I turned my nose up. Later, I realized my reaction wasn’t to the change in location; it was to change in general and the personal desire I had of wanting it to stay at Oak Park. Once I got use to it being on Glenwood, I said, “Wirth Park is an okay spot for Juneteenth.”
So, guess what I said when I heard that Juneteenth was moving to North Mississippi Regional Park? “What! Are you serious? Then I caught myself and remembered that I didn’t give the Wirth Park location a chance at first. I realize that there are pros and cons to each location mentioned. Also there are other potential locations in the minds of many others. But keep in mind the key word is change.
Before my recent conversation with a few of the key people involved with the coordinating of Juneteenth that enlightened me, you could have easily quoted me saying, “Our Minnesota Juneteenth event that celebrates freedom is being enslaved.” I said it mainly because there was no parade, no 10K run and the event seemed very restricted in many ways. So I took my own advice and asked Mary Pargo, president of the Twin Cites Juneteenth celebration committee.
I learned that the parade is due to return next year, and they are working hard to keep things going. By the time you read this piece, the Juneteenth committee will have already met to begin planning for next year. Kudos to the Juneteenth Committee two times!
So for those people who showed up for this year’s Juneteenth or previous years and complained all day, but you’re guilty of never volunteering for anything in the community or never participated in the actual planning and organizing of any event anywhere, try using your inside voice for a change and put yourself in the shoes of those volunteers who have showed up to donate their time.
As the saying goes, things could always be better. On the flipside, they could always be worse too. If you think it’s easy, looks can be deceiving. Trust and believe, it’s more than a notion.
When you’re ready to volunteer your time to support the Twin Cities Juneteenth committee, you can first find them on the internet at www.JuneteenthMinnesota.org or call 612-238-3733.
James L. Stroud welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.