Juneteenth celebration is canceled

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The annual Juneteenth Celebration in Blytheville has been canceled unexpectedly due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Juneteenth is celebrated across the country and commemorates the announcement of the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas which happened two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was given.

Dr. Anes Abraham, who is a member of the Blytheville Juneteenth committee said, “There are several events hosted during this time each year.”

Some of those events include a formal oratorical competition with spoken word, sweet potato pie contests, health screenings, and more. Abraham explained, “This year for the oratorical competition, we were going to include all the way down to six year olds, in order to allow younger children to participate in that competition. We give out medallions for the sweet potato pies and also whoever wins gets bragging rights. With our oratorical competition, we give cash awards to those youth.”

“Another aspect is we do a scholarship to two high school seniors and this would’ve been the fourth year that started out honoring Sam Scruggs but now it is called the Juneteenth scholarship,” said Abraham.

Abraham mentioned that the Juneteenth committee also works throughout the year to help youth in the community.

“There is an art competition in February which is another aspect and this is open to all local schools. The art is displayed during black history month at ANC,” said Abraham. “We also go into the schools during February. One year, for the 200th birthday of Fredrick Douglass, we distributed books, and got to talk about Juneteenth and answer any questions that the youth might have about African American history.”

Abraham said that there is always someone in the community chosen as the grand marshal for the Juneteenth Celebration and this year’s Grand Marshal will be tabled for next year.

“Our grand marshals are selected from the community and they are people who have contributed and given back to the community. One year it was Rev. Emmanuel Lofton, another year it was Faye and Oscar Ford, some other grand marshals were Mylas Jeffers, Billy and Viola Miller, Charles Sanders. This year — and we’re going to table her for next year — Tallie Ann Rogers,” said Abraham.

Abraham explained that Juneteenth recognizes business owners, politicians, and provides awareness and information about citizens’ health.

“The other thing that is important with us is we like to encourage black-owned businesses, the fee for vendors is $35, which is a small amount, because we want people that have different ideas and products to set up booths. We’ve even had youth sell their art during Juneteenth. We give politicians a way to present to a variety of people in the community also,” said Abraham.

Abraham continued, “We also wanted to help people from a health standpoint, we’ve had screenings for mammograms, and diabetes. We had the Red Cross bloodmobile one time, which is something we also want to do this year because of the importance of donating.”

Abraham added, “We are still selling Juneteenth tee shirts that will have this year’s theme on them which is ‘No Vote, No Voice;’ they are $15. Payment is needed by May 30th. For any questions call 870-740-2054 or 870-623-2463.”