Juneteenth program educates, empowers, entertains

Published 4:43 pm Tuesday, July 4, 2023

by Lisa Brown

Amidst the backdrop of a stormy morning and a county-wide power outage, a group of boys and girls from the Temple of Hope Drumline of Greenville captivated the audience at Luverne Multi-Purpose Center with an extraordinary performance, bringing the Juneteenth ceremony to a resounding finale. The group was under the guidance of Pastor Lamar Hooper from the Temple of Hope Church in Greenville.

The event, sponsored by the Allen Lily Chapter #700 Order of Eastern Stars and Concerned Citizens of Crenshaw County organizations, embraced the theme of “Educating. Empowering. Entertaining,” resonating with the spirit of Juneteenth. As keynote speaker Pastor Charlie Sankey, Jr. took the stage, his powerful address delved into the historical significance of the holiday, from the revolutionary war to the Civil War. 

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“When it comes to [U.S.] history our brains will not allow us to go back to the place we used to be,” said Pastor Sankey. His thought provoking speech shed light on the lasting effects of social conditioning and emphasized the continuous pursuit of freedom.

The Juneteenth observance commemorates that pursuit of freedom. Although some slave owners in Confederate states initially disregarded President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it was not until June 19, 1865, when Army Major General Gordon Granger reasserted the news of freedom in Galveston, Texas, that the message truly reached all. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday every June 19, symbolizing the hard-fought journey from bondage to liberation.

Throughout the celebration, various performances enthralled the audience, showcasing the talents and cultural richness of the community. We R One, an ensemble of young female praise dancers under the direction of Sheena Owens, graced the stage with their transcendental performance. Frankie Harris and Bertha Jones provided soulful musical accompaniment. 

Felicia Darby offered a special presentation on the origin of the Negro Spiritual which combined song and speech to illuminate the profound impact of this musical genre.

 “The ‘Negro Spiritual’ is a religious folksong that was closely associated with the enslavement of African people in the American South,” Darby explained. “Harriet Tubman, a former slave and a conductor for the underground railroad, said that she used spirituals such as ‘Go down Moses’ to signal the slaves that she was in the area and would help any who wanted to escape,” she said.

The Temple of Hope Drumline took the stage under the guidance of Pastor Lamar Hooper. With their synchronized rhythms and electrifying beats, the group of talented third through eighth grade boys and girls mesmerized the audience, bringing the celebration to a climactic conclusion. 

The event, which was open to the public, also carried a charitable aspect with the committee encouraging visitors to contribute nonperishable food items to support the Crenshaw County Department of Human Resources. Planning Committee Chairperson Betty Dawson expressed gratitude to Juwanna Walker, Malissa Allen, and all the refreshment sponsors who generously donated food. 

The Juneteenth Planning Committee extended appreciation to local African American businesses and individual sponsors for their contributions as well. Before lunch was served, the Committee also warmly thanked all the attendees for their presence and support. Despite multiple power outages & intense storms, the historical significance of Juneteenth was not lost on the attendees, as they reflected on the struggles endured by enslaved individuals and the pivotal moment of emancipation.