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Juneteenth celebration to be revived in Clayton

After a seven year absence, a big celebration designed to commemorate an African American holiday, is coming back to Clayton County, according to a state senator who is overseeing the event's planning.

State Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro) said Clayton County used to be home to a large event celebrating Juneteenth, which commemorates the anniversary of slaves in Texas receiving news of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865. The senator and the Clayton County Black History Center have worked to bring the celebration back on an annual basis. The group last held to event in 2004.

As a result of recent efforts, Davenport said, the first major Juneteenth Celebration to be held in Clayton County in several years will be held Saturday, from 2 p.m., to 7 p.m., at Lee Street Park, located at 140 Smith Street, in Jonesboro. It is free to attend, and open to the public.

"We felt there is a need for people to understand the meaning of Juneteenth, and why it is important," Davenport said. "We would like this celebration to become an annual event, held here in Jonesboro."

The meaning behind Juneteenth dates back to the Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which declared slaves to be free in states that were in rebellion against the U.S.

The proclamation went into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, and the war itself ended in 1865, but word of either action did not reach Texas until U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas months later, according www.juneteenth.com, a web site devoted to celebrating the anniversary of that event.

"We generally celebrate Jan. 1 as Emancipation Day, or Jubilee Day, but slaves in Texas did not receive the news that they were free until much later," which is why there is a separate, yet related, emancipation celebration in June, Davenport said. She said because Sunday is Father's Day, the Clayton County Juneteenth Celebration will be held Saturday, even though Sunday is the official Juneteenth anniversary.

Davenport said the Clayton County Juneteenth Celebration will have a little bit of something for everyone, including inflatable moon walks, rides, free popcorn and a Michael Jackson Dance Contest (with a $25 prize for the winner) for children, as well as voter registration tables and a housing counselor from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers for adults.

She said there will also be games, such as horseshoes and checkers, booths with information on the history of the Juneteenth celebration, recycling, nutrition, and the Atlanta State Farmers Market, for people of all ages. A disc jockey will also be on hand, to provide music, and there will also be a gospel hour.

There is a possibility for recent high temperatures to continue into the weekend, with the National Weather Service predicting on its web site that temperatures will be "near 90" on Saturday. Davenport said she is working to get tents for shade, but she added Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services will be on hand to treat any senior citizens who are affected the heat, and to give safety presentations to children.

Davenport also said food will be sold at the event, with the menu including barbecue rib plates ($6 each); barbecue chicken plates ($5 each); fish plates ($4); hamburgers ($2), and hot dogs ($1).

"If a senior [citizen] is not able to make it to the event, but still wants some food, they can call in an order, and we'll bring it to them," she added.

The senator said anyone who would like more information about the event, or seniors who want to call in a food order, should call (678) 215-9971.