On June 19, 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and announced enslaved people were now free. Since then, June 19 has been celebrated as Juneteenth across the nation.
The West Valley National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (WV-NAACP) will host its first family reunion-themed Juneteenth celebration at 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 19, at West Point High School in Avondale.
“We were originally going to do (a Juneteenth celebration) in Buckeye, but COVID shut down the entire city so we couldn’t do anything,” said Gizette Knight, chair of the community communication committee at WV-NAACP.
In her position, Knight builds connections between agencies and people in the community to “bring back to the WV-NAACP so we can figure out how to maneuver and interact within community spaces and with the members of these agencies in the West Valley.”
The event will include a senior corner, spoken word artists, musical entertainment and a kid’s corner. Calvin Terrell, “a phenomenal spoken word artist,” according to Knight, will serve as the keynote speaker. The theme for the celebration is “family reunion.”
“Who doesn’t love a family reunion?” Knight asked rhetorically. “I love being around my family and my cousins and with Black people that’s how we consider ourselves — as family.
“Then you have to think about it, we have been in COVID and cooped up and not being able to socialize and be with our peers and our loved ones. This is an opportunity to celebrate our ancestors, the clear out loud, the proudness of our history to be amongst our people and to invite others in to understand and get a taste of our history.”
Attendees can get a literal taste of history when it comes to the special event in the senior corner.
“(For the senior corner) we are doing a sweet potato pie contest,” Knight said. “We are going to have members from the community comedown and showcase their pies that they baked.
“This is a community thing because who doesn’t love a good sweet potato pie?”
Multigenerational judges will choose the winner based on “the taste, the texture and the presentation,” according to Knight.
“The whole event is free,” Knight said. “This is on behalf of the NAACP. We are providing great entertainment.
“We have bands. We have DJs and everyone that you could think of entertainment wise, and we have vendors. Also, we have a youth education corner. We have STEM projects, and we have some art projects.”
Performers include Dr. Akua Duku Anokye, who will be storytelling and spoken word artist Truth Be Told, also known as Christopher Owens.
In terms of vendors, Greater Phoenix Urban League will make an appearance and Equality Health will provide COVID-19 testing, according to Knight.
Masks are required to attend the event and will be given to attendees who do not own one.
“We are finally getting back to doing in person events and what a fantastic way to bring everybody together to do this, to celebrate our history and to pay homage to our ancestors,” Knight said.