North Texas Daily

Denton community celebrates Juneteenth at annual event

Denton community celebrates Juneteenth at annual event

Denton community celebrates Juneteenth at annual event
June 22
19:37 2021

The Denton Juneteenth Committee held its annual Juneteenth celebration June 18 and 19 at Fred Moore park — consisting of food vendors, live speakers and activities for children.

Juneteenth, June 19, commemorates slaves in Texas and much of the south learning of their freedom — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery in the United States. Just days before this year’s Juneteenth, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law declaring it a federal holiday.

Birdia Johnson, Denton resident and vice president of the Denton Juneteenth Committee, has helped organize a total of six Juneteenth events over the years. In the month leading up to the event, the committee meets weekly to prepare for the festivities.

“We discuss the booths, what vendors we are needing, what it’s going to cost us to get performers [and] what it’s going to cost to provide the need for the event,” Johnson said. “[Then] we go out and we look for people who are willing to donate.”

The Juneteenth celebration was held virtually in 2020 because of COVID-19 guidelines but with vaccines now in the picture, the event hosts opted to hold in-person and virtual options. However, precautions were taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the in-person portions.

“We have hand washing and sanitizing stations, [and] they are spread sporadically throughout the park, so that people will have access to them throughout the day,” Johnson said.

Having the event available on-site this year was important because it allowed Dentonites to remember and celebrate the community, Johnson said.

The Juneteenth celebration hosted food vendors participating for the first time. Steven Gibson, Mr. TenderRibs owner and Denton resident, said he is glad to be able to give back to the community by offering his homemade recipes.

“I noticed this neighborhood has changed a lot since the ’80s,” Gibson said. “I’ve noticed between then and now [that] people don’t really get together the way that they used to, so [Juneteenth] gives people something to look forward to.”

The Juneteenth celebration is a family tradition for Gibson, and he hopes to continue it with his daughter. “Growing up as a kid, my mom always brought me down here to this same park,” Gibson said. “So now I got my daughter down here, so she can grow up and be a part of it, as well.”

Every year, select people are recognized as Hometown Heroes because of their positive impact on the community. Denton Juneteenth Committee volunteer Clark Coleman, 61, was recognized as a Hometown Hero this year.

Coleman has helped with the on-site organization of the celebration for 10 years and said he thinks it is an extremely important event for the Denton community.

“It’s great to have [Juneteenth] because everyone joins together,” Coleman said. “It’s for everyone — it’s not just for one race.”

Denton Mayor Gerard Hudspeth was present at the Juneteenth celebration and made a declaration to continue the celebration of Juneteenth at Fred Moore Park.

Preparations and planning for the Juneteenth celebration of 2022 have begun, and the Denton Juneteenth Committee is looking forward to seeing what future events will hold. “As we remember our past, we are celebrating our future,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to forget where we came from, but we want to celebrate how far we have come as we move forward.”

Featured Image: Portrait of Steven Gibson and his wife Alicia Sanchez at the Denton Juneteenth Celebration on June 18, 2021. Image by Laura Nunez

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Joanna Gasca

Joanna Gasca

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