They came from all over Orange Mound to celebrate Juneteenth.
Saturday (June 19) was a historic day of celebration commemorating the day emancipation came to 250,000 African-American people in Texas, more than two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on Jan. 1, 1863.
“This was a first in a community that is a historic landmark for being the first African-American community in America built on home ownership,” said state Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis), the event’s primary organizer, referring to Orange Mound.
“We made it a community-driven event to promote both the economic and the educational aspects of Juneteenth.”
This year’s celebrations in Orange Mound and across the nation were sweetened by President Joe Biden signing a bill on June 17, declaring Juneteenth a national holiday.
Hardaway, Shelby County Board of Education member Joyce Dorse-Coleman, and leading Orange Mound Community organizations hosted the all-day affair from at Orange Mound Park on Carnes Avenue.
The celebration this past weekend also marked other legislative victories for the holiday being officially recognized.
State Sen. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) and Hardaway were primary sponsors of a state bill that passed this year, marking Juneteenth as an annual day of special observance. It was signed into law by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee in April. bill which passed in April.
“This year is extra special because of that legislation,” said Hardaway. “We want our children to know, not only about Juneteenth, but also about the history of their community. Orange Mound was built by African Americans for African Americans. The vestiges of that pride and identity are still with us today.”
LaTonia Blankenship, a community organizer who helped Hardaway pull the celebration together in three weeks, said Orange Mound businesses and residents came together to make it happen.
“We had food trucks and basketball,” said Blankenship. “There was a Children’s Corner for our young people between the ages of 4-12. Three readers read books by African-American authors, and Melrose High School majorettes and flag girls danced.
“There were spoken word and poetry stage performances. There was a deejay to play music, vendors, and exhibitors. Every one of those businesses, including the food trucks, had ties to Orange Mound.”
In other words, it was all Orange Mound, all day, putting on for their community, “Orange Mound, TN.”
Children had fun with games and puzzles to teach them about Juneteenth and the Emancipation Proclamation. Many of them won food and other prizes.
“This is the first of many Orange Mound Juneteenth celebrations,” said Hardaway. “We must be responsible for teaching our children their history. Recognizing the greatness within will give them purpose and direction in their lives.”
Juneteenth originated in Galveston, Texas, and has been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since 1866.
Former slaves celebrated their freedom for the first time in 1866.