Oxford celebrates Juneteenth

Posted on Jun 19 2016 - 8:35am by Mia Sims

The day of “Juneteenth,” which began after slaves in the United States were given their freedom, was celebrated June 18 by the Oxford community.

The traditionally African-American holiday was first celebrated in Oxford eight years ago when Deborah Palmer, former pastor of Burns United Methodist Church, started hosting the function at her residence.

Cecilia Webb, one of the Juneteenth committee members and event coordinators, said the annual event has grown every year since it was started.

“What this day means to me is that we’re all free, and we’re all able to come together as a community in unity,” Webb said. “We don’t have to look at hatred or color. We have people from all walks of life coming together.”

The celebration was filled with food, music and creative activities for children. At the beginning of the festival, a water slide held several children laughing as they played with others around them.

Volunteer Indy Betsworth said the “Art to Go” company has been providing art and history related activities for Juneteenth for five years now.

This year their theme was Gee’s Bend quilts. The children made collages of construction paper to resemble the original patchwork blankets.

The quilts were originally created by a group of women and their ancestors who live along the Alabama River in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. They are considered unique and an important part of of the history of art in the United States.

“The women make quilts out of work clothes and they still do quilts and the quilts travel all over the world,” Betsworth said. “We’ve done African-American folk art in past years. Last year, we did African-American masks. We try to teach (the children) something about their history each year.”

Although the celebration is celebrated nationwide, community members try to keep the event unique. Last year, the event was held on a Friday night and was called “Essence of June.”

“We had singers and poets come speak on different eras of black history,” volunteer Tinecia Francis said. “We wanted to shed light on the actual history of it and why we are celebrating.”

Francis said the event is entirely community planned and led, which makes it more special to the people involved and adds meaning to the holiday.

“This isn’t something that they had to do but chose to do and that is powerful, “ Francis said. “I hope the community continues to do this every year.”