Local event about more than free food

TaLeiza CallowayColumn, St. JosephLeave a Comment

Free food.

Everyone likes free food. Heck, some people might not even like a particular event but if he or she sees a sign with “Free Food” on it, they are there. I am no different.

Many like to think only college students are experts at staking out free food but they are not the only ones.

I recently went to an annual Juneteenth Community Celebration in St. Cloud. I had read about the event before and even attended the event as part of my previous job.

This time I was able to participate in the event. What I mean is, this time I was able to enjoy all the free food.

As I ate my hamburger and potato salad with my fellow event-goers, I thought about what the event was all about. Yes, it was great to get the free food. And there was no limit on how much you could have. Bonus! But I wondered if the hundreds of people knew why Juneteenth was worth celebrating.

My mother used to work at a community center in Ohio. My sister and I would accompany her to the annual Juneteenth celebration. We just thought it was nice to spend time with our mother at her job. It was also nice to get the free hot dogs and chips.

When I told my mother where I was going, her response was, “Oh, I remember going to that.”

I then asked her if she knew what Juneteenth was.

Like me, she admitted going for the fellowship and yes, the refreshments. After some research, I learned it is about so much more than free food.

Juneteenth marks an important part of history. It marks the end of slavery in the United States. The celebration originated in Galveston, Texas in 1865 and is observed on June 19, according to www.juneteenth.com.

What is significant about the celebration is the end of slavery was not known by slaves until two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The news came on June 19, 1865 when union soldiers, under the leadership of Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Texas and announced the war was over and the enslaved were free, according to the website. Just reading this makes one think about the importance of time and reflect on the fact it is something that cannot be repeated.

There are a variety of ways to celebrate what some call Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. Community events can feature entertainment, food, guest speakers, information booths about black history and more. In some parts of the United States, it’s not just a day of events, it is celebrated for a full week.

No matter how long the historical event is recognized, what is most important is that it is recognized at all. What’s important is that on that day or during that given week, people take the time — if they want to — to learn about the big celebration happening down the street at their local park. The celebrations are open to everyone because a consistent theme is unity.

The local event I attended was held at Riverside Park in St. Cloud. There was a cookout, information booths from local organizations, entertainment provided by local youth and a scenic atmosphere of the river. Honestly, it felt more like a family reunion. I was glad to be there.

I had heard of Juneteenth before and even attended a few events in its honor. It wasn’t until I took time to learn more about its historical significance that I appreciated that free hamburger a little bit more.

Author: TaLeiza Calloway

TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.

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