Juneteenth: A celebration of freedom

By By Cliff Seiber / American Press

Juneteenth commemorates the day on which slaves in Texas received word of the Emancipation Proclamation — June 19, 1865, or

nearly three years after Abraham Lincoln signed the order.

Lake Charles’ Juneteenth celebration — 11 a.m. Saturday, June 22, at the Civic Center — will include a re-enactment of that

official notice, which was delivered from a hotel balcony in Galveston.

The observance has spread worldwide,

according to Faye Brown-Blackwell, owner and general manager of radio

station KZWA-FM,

which sponsors the Lake Charles event. Similar festivals are held

all over Louisiana, including Shreveport, New Orleans and

Lafayette.

Entry to this year’s local event will be free of charge, Brown-Blackwell said. “We wanted it to be free family fun — like

a family barbecue but for everyone,” she said. “They didn’t have alcohol back then, and we won’t either.”

There will be plenty of music and food, and key events of the day will be the Freedom Ride bike run and the barbecue cookoff.

The bike run is open to all

motorcyclists, and riders from all over Louisiana and parts of Texas are

expected. Bikes will

depart from the Civic Center at 10 a.m. and return at about 1:30

p.m., when the full celebration opens to the public, Brown-Blackwell

said.

Some cooks in the barbecue competition camp out so they’re ready to start early in the morning. Judging will be at about 2

p.m., she said.

Last year’s winner, Calcasieu Parish Police Juror Tony Guillory, is looking to retain the championship, she said.

A Kids Zone will be in the Civic Center Exhibition Hall, “but we hope most of the other action will be outdoors, like the

original reading of the proclamation,” she said.

“For me as an African-American woman, it is a time to reflect on the great African-Americans who contributed to our place

in society and how they empowered us to carry on,” Brown-Blackwell said.

The musical entertainment schedule this year has emphasis on local groups. “We want to promote local people,” she said.