Texoma ADL to present Juneteenth celebration
Photo: Greater Conroe Arts Aliance 
In April, 2017, a mural in honor of Annette Gordon-Reed was unveiled in Conroe, Texas. The addition to the Conroe Legends mural wall honored the 1977 graduate of Conroe High School and winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in History.

Webinar slated for June 15

By Deb Silverthorn

It was nearly two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that Major General Gordon Granger’s men marched through Galveston on June 19, 1865, reading General Order No. 3, announcing that all slaves were free.

One hundred years later, Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday, and, in 2021, the rest of the nation followed suit. Beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, the Texoma office of the ADL will present a webinar commemorating, and celebrating, the holiday.

“The journey to freedom is a recurring theme that connects multiple groups to one another,” said Cheryl Drazin, vice president of the ADL’s Central Division which includes the Texoma Region. “The shared experience of going from slavery to freedom is one that bound the Jewish and African American communities. It was through this lens that ADL Texoma committed to elevating the recognition of Juneteenth.”

For the Jewish community, learning of the history of Juneteenth centers on Galveston, the port where Granger pronounced the order, but also the port where generations ago Jews arrived. The conversations of this holiday also bring about discussion of Jews of color and the intersection of the issues of community.

“The history of Jews of color, of African Americans and of Jews, of our people — and our people — are great,” said Sherasa Thomas, Texoma ADL director of Education. “It is the honor of the ADL to bring this opportunity, these really very special and important guests, to educate, to entertain and to enlighten us all.”

The Juneteenth event will include a conversation between Thomas and Pulitzer Prize–winning author, Harvard Law School professor and historian, Annette Gordon-Reed reflecting on the author’s 2021 publication, “On Juneteenth,” with a question-and-answer session to follow.

Weaving together American history, dramatic family chronicles and searing episodes of memoir, Gordon-Reed’s view of the country’s long road to Juneteenth recounts its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African Americans have endured since, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond.

“Slavery is an incredibly important part of the history of this country — of this state,” said Gordon-Reed, who was born in Livingston, Texas, and raised in Conroe. Her family in Texas dates back to at least 1820. “The image of Texas of cowboys, cattlemen and oil men isn’t ‘the’ picture of our state at all. Many here have ancestors who were brought as enslaved people to work here. My goal is to fill out the picture that is Texas, a state that is diverse with Indigenous Spanish, with African and Anglo-Europeans.”

Joining the Juneteenth celebration is the poet SE7EN, a native and resident of Houston.  

“The Jewish people, having faced genocide, are able to tell their stories and bring awareness to the world, but Jews don’t just champion for themselves, they don’t just tell their story,” said SE7EN. “That the ADL is interested in Juneteenth only enhances the respect I have for the community and its people. I am profoundly honored to share in this program and the excitement pushes me to, through my talent, be pushed and inspired.”

Most people have never thought about slaves being transported between Galveston and Houston, which was then the state capital. 

“The picture in our minds isn’t of slaves trying to escape while shackled in the Buffalo Bayou. The ‘Le Carafe’ bar, one of the oldest in the city, still serving, screams of colonialism and you walk past these landmarks and think how many people were so mistreated here,” said SE7EN. It’s not enough to beat our drums; we are positioned to educate, to teach and to care — in this instance to share a better and deeper understanding of what Juneteenth really means.”

The Greater Houston Kingdom Movement, a choir of participants in grade six to age 30, will bring their version of “Lift Every Voice,” in spoken word and rap, to the program.

“It is our spiritual obligation to take any opportunity possible to encourage our community, through whatever gifts and talents we have,” said Minister Ray Brady, GHKM’s leader. “It is incumbent on us to remember, to know and to share our awareness. This is history and it is important to know from whence you come — an opportunity to celebrate unity and freedom and to, working together, explore where we’ve come from and where we are going.”

“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,” the Greater Houston Kingdom Movement choir will sing. “Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.” 

To register for the Texoma Juneteenth event, visit tinyurl.com/ADL-Juneteenth-RSVP.

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