While Juneteenth brought word of the abolition of slavery to Texas 155 years ago, organizers of this year’s Marble Falls celebration want people to know it’s still relevant today and for all people, not just African-Americans.
“It’s not only a history of back then,” said the Rev. George Perry of St. Frederick Baptist Church, “but the history of this town.”
In that spirit, Perry is inviting the community to help organize this year’s celebration, which is Saturday, June 20, at Westside Park, located at the intersection of Second Street and Avenue Q. The city of Marble Falls waived the rental fee for the park and offered the use of barbecue pits for the event.
“I want to start off by putting together an official board of contributors and volunteers to help plan and organize,” Perry said. “I want a group of volunteers to come and work. Not everybody wants to be on a board. They can come out and do something and leave or raise money and leave. We want to get a board set up of individuals so this can go on year after year.”
People are needed to fill committees for a variety of things, including games, cooking, setup, and cleanup.
Perry said there are plenty of ways to be involved; people just need a willingness to serve.
“I’m not looking for this to be an ‘I think,’” he said. “It’s a ‘we think’ event. I’m looking at songs we can sing. I’m looking at activities for the kids.”
He wants to use all areas of Westside Park: the grassy knoll for bounce houses, the basketball court for friendly tournaments, and tables for dominoes, cards, and other board games.
“It’s a togetherness like it was then,” he added. “That’s what I envision. Working together to educate and have a good time.”
He also wants to give a history lesson on Juneteenth to explain why it’s more than an African-American holiday.
To Perry, Juneteenth is a great opportunity to show the diversity of the community with people of all walks of life coming together to celebrate an important date in the United States.
Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day, recognizes the day word reached Texas that the Civil War and slavery in the Confederate states had ended: June 19, 1865.
Afterward, according to Perry, many former slaves turned to whites for help navigating their newfound freedom.
“They were the ones who told us where to go and where to be safe,” he said.
Many of the hymns former slaves sang were more than just praise to God; they were codes, Perry said. Helpful white families also hung clothing and blankets as secret messages to former slaves to keep them safe from those not happy with the end of slavery and who wished to do them harm.
“The songs were instructions, and the blankets that were hung were messages that told people where to go,” Perry said.
Those interested in helping to organize Marble Falls’ Juneteenth celebration should visit the St. Frederick’s church office at 301 Avenue N or call 830-693-4499.
“I know this year we’ll be small,” Perry said about the 2020 event. “Next year, we’ll get bigger and bigger.”