By Heather Bell
On June 19, 1865, 18 months after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved African-Americans in Texas finally found out about their freedom when Gordon Granger, a Union general, arrived in Galveston to inform them of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended.
Since then, that event has been known as Juneteenth and has been commemorated throughout the country. Radford is hosting its own Juneteenth commemoration this year at Bisset Park with an open microphone and fellowship event designed to allow people a platform to tell their stories, to share thoughts and feelings, and to get to know one another better.
Hosted by the RADical Change Commission, the event is set for Saturday, June 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Bisset Park Gazebo.
“The RADical Change Commission is honored to host this special event centered around storytelling in honor of Juneteenth,with our primary focus being on listening and learning from the history, hopes, and hearts of our neighbors and friends who are black,” said Commission Chair Janiele Hamden. “Their stories are an integral part of Radford’s roots and should be told by those they belong to.”
“Building a strong foundation for our first celebration of this sacred day is of great importance to us,” Hamden said. “Listening, learning, validating, and supporting are the four corners of that foundation. We are eager for our community to have this foundation, and we cherish the opportunity to build it together.”
Michael Wyms, owner of Cut Nice Barbershop and a board member of the RADical Change Commission, said he is looking forward to the Juneteenth commemoration and hopes to build on this year’s event to make it an annual celebration of Black American heritage.
“This year is pretty much an open floor to share; we’re giving people a platform to reflect, and to think about how we move forward,” he said. “I think to look toward our future, we sometimes need to look at our past, even though it may not always be positive. It is very humbling to acknowledge this history, and we need to learn from it.”
The commission invites the public to come to the event and to “commemorate this sacred day by sharing your stories, your hopes, and your heart as we gather to listen and learn. Let’s grow in our knowledge and appreciation for CommUNITY history, vision, and love.”
The commission will provide free pizza, ice cream, and drinks as long as supplies last and asks participants to bring chairs, blankets, or other seating preferences. The event will conclude with a candlelight vigil “to honor the evening we have shared together.”