LAURINBURG — While Juneteenth might not be taught widely in schools, many in the Scotland County community are aware of significance and come out to celebrate this week.
The day is meant to celebrate the end of slavery in the deep south. While the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, word moved slowly across the south. The last slaves were freed on June 19, 1865 when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger read the proclamation in Galveston, Texas.
Even with the heat index hitting near 100 degrees, more than 50 people were at the event which was held outside for the first time.
“To not tell part of it, is to not tell the whole story,” said Rena McNeil, an event organizer. “We want kids to be educated as much as possible so that each generation will become stronger and we won’t repeat the past.”
For McNeil, the observance was especially important because of the political tension currently in the country. During slavery many families were separated from each other and currently families are being separated in Texas at the border of the United States and Mexico.
“We’re still dealing with a period of people not valuing human life,” McNeil said.
The event was also meaningful to 13-year-old Johna Speller, Scotland County NAACP Youth president.
“It’s very overlooked and it really needs to be learned by young people,” Speller said. “They need to learn about this part of history and I’m very glad to be a part of it.”
The event included a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, a performance of African dances performed, storytelling, presentations by ACT-SO winners.
“The whole idea of Juneteenth of course is unity and togetherness and mutual respect,” said Shea-Ra Nichi, who performed dances for the crowd. “It is never a situation of being on the outside looking in, you’re doing it together.”
Chris Pegues of Prime Ministry helped DJ the event. Pegues, who is originally from Laurinburg, but currently lives in Atlanta, agreed.
“What you’re seeing is the survivors of slavery coming together to celebrate and see that we’re strong,” Pegues said. “We come out here to celebrate each other as well as thank god for being able to be here together, it’s a beautiful to show the event to other people, it’s a really positive event.”
While the crowd at the event wasn’t as large as organizers had hoped, they were happy to see people participate and celebrate.
“I’m still seeking the community to come together as a whole for the event but I am very thankful for people who are here,” said McNeil. “I thought that it still went incredibly well and those who came out you can never give too much to those who help tell the history.”
Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171.