Celebrate Juneteenth

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Just as Mosaic Templars Cultural Center has evolved from its namesake Mosaic Templars of America into a nationally accredited museum of African American history, its Juneteenth celebration has evolved from a one-block party to a festival with hundreds of vendors, attendees and exciting entertainers.

Now branded Juneteenth in Da Rock, the third Saturday in June is set aside in Little Rock to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19th,1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved African Americans were free people. This momentous occasion marked the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved people in the Confederacy, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

This will be the 15th year that Mosaic Templars Cultural Center has hosted the observance, seeking to be a beacon that can illuminate any other celebrations around the state. Along for the ride, albeit somewhat reluctant to have the spotlight shine on them, are three MTCC staff members pivotal to the massive event’s execution: Courtney Bradford, Suzanne Ornelas and Brian Rodgers. As curator, Courtney orchestrated the newly renovated permanent exhibit from which the 2024 Juneteenth theme was born. “Our theme this year is ‘Woven’. We want to celebrate the fact that Black history is woven into the fabric of not only Arkansas history but American history.” Suzanne heaps kudos upon Courtney’s work assembling the exhibit “Visually the woven theme is included in the structures and displays throughout the gallery. It’s the concept that Arkansas history is a tapestry made up of all our experiences. Our pasts are intertwined and so is our present. When those who follow us look back, they’ll view a new tapestry woven from even more diverse threads.”

This year’s celebration promises to be bigger and better than ever, with a lineup of events and entertainment that showcases the resilience, strength, and vibrancy of the African American community. It’s an opportunity for Arkansans to come together, reflect on the past, and celebrate the progress that has been made while recognizing the work that still lies ahead in the fight for equality and justice.

Brian, the museum’s adult education and interpretive specialist, is a historian and community relations liaison. He remembers when they struggled to secure 10 sponsors and worried if anyone would show up for the party. “Today, we have to decline requests from artists who want to perform because we just can’t fit everyone in,” he said. “I would like to see Juneteenth in Da Rock grow to encompass this whole area, West 7th, 8th and 9th streets in downtown Little Rock. I want us to be the preeminent summer celebration in Little Rock.”

 

JUNETEENTH IN DA ROCK

Saturday, June 15 | Historic West Ninth Street

www.arkansasheritage.com/juneteenth

Photography:

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