(STILLWATER, OK) – On Saturday, June 18, at Southern Woods Park from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Stillwater Community United (SCU), Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Stillwater Police Department, City of Stillwater, Stillwater Public Library and Visit Stillwater host the annual community Juneteenth Celebration.
Stillwater Community United and partners announced the free event includes performances by The Hebrew Messengers, Reese Da’ Prophet Brown, Mt. Zion Praise Team and Youth Step Dance Group. There will also be games with prizes, bounce houses for children, and free food and drinks available for attendees to enjoy.
The planning committee meets regularly to organize the annual celebration and to plan other important initiatives to encourage honest dialogue, unity and healing.
“Juneteenth is an observable celebration to the end of slavery, and in Stillwater, is also a declaration of our commitment to equity and a unified community,” said Stillwater Police Chief Jeff Watts. “We invite all residents to join the celebration, embrace dialogues for greater change and continuous efforts of unity.”
In 2021, Juneteenth, June 19, became a national holiday to celebrate freedom from slavery and is a significant milestone in American culture. Events nationwide are a celebration of strength, resistance and unwavering resilience.
“The racial history of our country is tragic and unimaginable, it’s also factual and should not be forgotten. In order to be a more united, healed and healthier community today, we must increase awareness of racial injustices then and now,” Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce said.
Due to the national holiday falling on a Sunday, the community celebration is planned for Saturday. In recognition of the holiday, city, state and federal organizations and institutions are closed for business on Monday, June 20, including Oklahoma State University. The City of Stillwater will be closed on Monday with trash and recycling services operating as usual.
Dr. Doug Hallenbeck, OSU vice president for student affairs and Stillwater Community United member, said he is happy to see the university closed in commemoration of the holiday and hopes students, faculty and staff will engage with the broader Stillwater community in celebration on Saturday.
“Juneteenth is a time of celebration and introspection,” Hallenbeck said. “I look forward to joining with the community in recognition of this important holiday and continuing to work to foster an inclusive, welcoming community, both on and off campus.” he said.
Travis Hartfield, OSU coordinator of African American affairs, said he is anticipating a thought-provoking event Saturday and is delighted that the Stillwater community is coming together to celebrate Juneteenth.
“We must celebrate moments in history like Juneteenth and look at them from different perspectives to become better aware, better educated and more equipped to ensure history doesn't repeat itself,” he said. "The struggles of pursuing freedom should not be topics that elicit fear. Awareness and effective education are essential tools in the ongoing pursuit of absolute equality.”
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration to the end of slavery in the United States dating back to June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger delivered news in Texas that the Civil War ended and the enslaved were now free. Texas was the last state to hear the news of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The end of slavery did not occur overnight in all states and territories until the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution on December 6, 1865.
The event will be moved to the Stillwater Community Center Lowry Activity Center on Duck St. and 9th if needed due to rainfall or inclement weather.