By Ernest Lowery
Special to the New Journal and Guide
Can you imagine being a slave back in Galveston, Texas… on June 19, 1865 (well, just imagine)? Being in the field working and picking cotton? All of a sudden you hear that faint sound of horses’ hooves and dust being stirred up. There, in plan sight, are regiments of Colored Union soldiers on horseback riding proudly and free and they look like you, Black!
These U.S. Colored Troops who hailed from New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Illinois were present in Galveston, Texas to announce that the more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as “Juneteenth,” by the newly freed people in Texas. (Do yourself a favor and visit www.NJOF.org and look up the meaning of the Juneteenth Flag. It will give you a keen insight about Juneteenth’s early beginning, and, an appreciation of Our Time Is Now!)
“All Things Juneteenth”, in my view, is a perfect slogan for the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF) organization! Although here in Chesapeake, Virginia, we have an independent Chesapeake Juneteenth Foundation, Inc. (CJF) a 501 (c)(3) not for profit organization, we subscribe to the leadership with the NJOF 1, because their brand is worldwide and there is no need to re-invent the wheel.
NJOF President Steve Williams recently stated “there are 3 pillars of our strategy: Awareness, Education, and Socialization. The federal holiday brings about awareness of Juneteenth. With the holiday we must bring about the education.” CJF has tailored its programing to maximize the strengths and thoughts of our own 757 as we continue to give the people what they want.
For three days in October, the NJOF met in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the 4th Annual Juneteenth Directors & Planning Meeting, covering a plethora of ground keeping in line with the programing and events that needed attention. I don’t think I can overstate how much I really enjoyed my stay. The food at Wanda J’s Next Generation Restaurant was excellent; its borders right off N. Greenwood and Archer, right in the heart of Black Wall Street.
There are so many stories to tell from Tulsa, and I will share two with you of great significance.
First, one of the most startling and eye catching events was the 2nd Annual Miss Juneteenth Teen Pageant which was held at the First Presbyterian Church. Miss Aceia (Ace) Spade, 17-years-old, born in Alabama and raised in Oregon, was crowned queen.
Ace, as she likes to be called, is a senior at Churchill High School and upon completion, plans to attend the University of Oregon and major in criminal law. At an early age, Ace wanted to show her passion and the opportunity to help and share a history of her ancestral spirit. In 2021 a piece of her dream has come true, she will shine as Miss Juneteenth for the nest 12 months and showcase to young ladies the power of a dream and hard work.
I had the privilege to hang out with all the contestants for a day taking pictures and video, which will be shared at a later date online. We all enjoyed and engaged on a tour bus that cruised around the city as there were guides and speakers that gave history updates on many places of interest. Yes, the teenagers were quite excited too and amazed about what they heard and saw. I saw and felt how relaxed they were and how they interacted with each other knowing that the next day they would be competing against each for the coveted Miss Juneteenth 2021 pageant crown.
As time wound down to the last day, we were now on the next tier, education. It was an afternoon filled with research based on the NJOF Education Committee Juneteenth 101 curriculum.
This workshop re-enforced the plight and decimation of Juneteenth goals and mission, and is available to students of all ages. I met a host of beautiful people from around the country attending this year’s meeting. It was an honor to meet Ms. Opal Lee, known for her outstanding leadership and walking, bringing awareness to support making Juneteenth a national holiday.
Later that evening we spent the bulk of our time getting acquainted with each other, laughing and eating. This all took place at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame Museum. As the sun started to settle in for the night, Steve, the NJOF Chair, broke out his horn. By this time, all of the beautiful young pageant participants arrived to join in the remaining celebration. So Happy Hour began after a grueling three days of interesting visits and conversations, and we were about to let down our hair and enjoy the music. Along with Steve playing trumpet was famed guitar extraordinaire Leon Rollerson and his group, rounding out the evening… good night. All Things Juneteenth!
The Chesapeake Juneteenth Foundation is looking forward to participating in the 2022 Miss Juneteenth Teen Pageant. So, Hampton Roads (757) let’s get in gear and bring out our best young ladies and win this pageant. Really!