Juneteenth Celebration

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 9, 2010

By David Vitrano


ST. JAMES – While much of the region hunkered down as sometimes violent storms moved through the area this weekend, the small community of St. James was spared the worst of the weather. This was much to the delight of the Fifth District On the Move club, which put on the third annual community Juneteenth celebration in Welcome Park on Saturday and Sunday.

Said club President Trina Moll, “God is good. He’s blessed us.” She added, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

Juneteenth is an annual celebration honoring the 1865 emancipation of slaves in Texas on June 19.

Moll said the group began staging the celebration “to give back to the community and inform people about our heritage.”

The event included music, food, craft vendors, a car show and historical reenactments of slave life.

Referring to the small replica slave shack where the reenactments take place, Moll said, “I don’t think anyone else in the state has this.” Moll said her son built the small wooden structure complete with a stand-alone outhouse.

When not in their slave costumes, the women in Fifth District On the Move were just as easily recognizable by their bright red shirts.

“The reason we wear red is for the struggle that we’ve gone through, black as well as white, because of all the blood that has been shed,” said Moll.

The weekend’s program was interspersed with other performances meant to heighten the experience from both a physical and spiritual perspective.

Melissa Cooper of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church performed liturgical dance. She described the art as “giving God praise by demonstrating the words of a song through body movements.”

Regardless of the roles they played, those involved in the organization of the event showed the true power of a community when its members act in unison. Security for the event, for example, was handled by Tru Hustlers motorcycle club, which also manned a booth selling fried catfish dinners.

The club, explained President Donald “Poppee” Wheaton, recently received two awards from the NAACP for outstanding community service.

Sunday’s car show was spearheaded by Kerry Johnson, a St. James native who heads up 2 Slow Racing and has been a car show participant in past years.

“We’re trying to get it up and running where we can make it better each year,” he said.

The crowds this year may have been a bit sparser than in the past couple of years — black clouds overhead kept many revelers away — but the spirit of those in attendance was not dampened.

Said St. James resident Cassie Ester, “It’s fun. I’m having a good time. I’ll be coming back tomorrow.”