Juneteenth And Slavery's Enduring Impact
Each year in mid-June, people across the country pause to celebrate an event that took place a century and a half ago on an island city in the Gulf Coast. It was there in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 that Union General Gordon Granger stood on a balcony at a local villa and read aloud a message from president Abraham Lincoln: “The people of Texas are informed that all slaves are free.”
The annual celebration to mark the occasion is known as Juneteenth. WFDD’s David Ford spoke with Triad Cultural Arts founder, and Juneteenth organizer Cheryl Harry about this year’s celebration which will take place in Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter.
On the location of this year's event and its significance:
For the African American community, that part of town used to be a business district. The YMCA was there, the Depot Street School, stenographers, doctors’ offices, were there. I used to go up to the Y on the corner of 6th and Patterson. I used to come to the doctor’s office right across from the [now] biotech center. Dr. Jones was upstairs. You know, that was our community at one time. [So] I think it will be a time to re-engage and educate people about the history that was there. The Society for the Study of African American History in Winston-Salem will have photographs, so we’ll be able to see some of the pictures of businesses there.
On the changes to this area due to gentrification:
I can see myself in the clothes I had on in going to the “Y,” I can see all of that. But, you know, times change. I just hate that we didn’t capture our history there, but I think this is an opportunity for that to happen now, to really capture it and pass it down to our children.
On continuing to grapple with race and equality in 2016:
Yeah, I know, it’s almost like you can’t believe it that we are, but I think that there are some foundational things that have to be done. We’ve been putting a Band-Aid on it, you know, treating the pain, but not treating the wound. Until we as a country face what happened together, and begin to heal the wound, just taking a pill for the hurt will not [make it] go away. And I think that’s what’s missing in our society. Slavery is not something people want to talk about, but it needs to be addressed fully, you know, a full discourse.
On some of the most significant developments Cheryl Harry has seen within the Black community over the past several years:
Well, I’m loving that we’re beginning to see more films. The motion picture industry is taking on this period in our history, and showing it on the big screen. And a lot of people are becoming aware of a part of our history that they didn’t know existed. So to me that’s a big step toward a larger audience to begin [having] this conversation.
Juneteenth will be celebrated on June 18th at the Innovation Quarter’s Bailey Park and Biotech Place in Winston-Salem from 11am to 3:15pm. The annual Juneteenth Luncheon takes place on Thursday, June 16th.