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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Juneteenth Parade and celebration

Photo by Photo by Kyle Heise

Participants celebrate during the Juneteenth Parade in Bryan, Texas on Saturday, June 17, 2023.

This year, the Brazos Valley African American Heritage & Cultural Society, or BVAAHCS, returned with a Juneteenth parade as part of the all-day festivities in celebration of Juneteenth.
Also known as Freedom Day, Juneteenth marks when Union troops arrived off the Galveston coast announcing the emancipation of slaves in America on June 19, 1965, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

The BVAAHCS hosted a parade on June 17, that started at 10 a.m. at Kemp Carver Elementary School. Parade spectators lined up along Martin Luther King Boulevard as the parade traveled toward Sadie Thomas Memorial Park, where more mid-day family-friendly activities took place. The celebration concluded with a Blues Fest in Historic Downtown Bryan featuring a performance by Eugene and Hard 2 Fine.
BVAAHCS Treasurer James Hawkins has been a member of the association since its inception 12 years ago and has participated in the organization of the parade ever since.

Classic cars, parade floats, local community organizations, fire trucks and a new marching band participated in the parade, said Hawkins.
“It’s the first year we’ve had a band here, so I think [parade spectators] are going to be very excited about the band,” Hawkins said. “We’ve got a little sound going on now.”

The Juneteenth celebration has expanded in the 12 years since its initiation. The Blues Fest has changed to a larger venue in the last few years, said Destination Bryan’s PR and communications manager Abigail Noel, who helped advertise and organize the parade with the BVAAHCS.

“They’ve got a lot more space to spread out and get more people there,” Noel said. “That was a new thing that they added last year, as far as changing that location, and they said it was fantastic, and they got a ton more people out there. They had more space for people to bring out their lawn chairs and dance to music.”

Triumphant Trends’ program director Karen Paschal set up a booth at the Sadie Thomas Memorial Park to inform attendees about Triumphant Trends’ youth programs. Paschal said she attended the event for the first time this year and is looking forward to attending next year’s celebration as well.

“[Juneteenth] was when our people heard at last that we were free, so people celebrate that day,” Paschal said.
Now, the celebration at Sadie Thomas Memorial Park features vendors in tents selling homemade jewelry, t-shirts, barbeque, turkey legs, snow cones and lemonade, said parade attendee Linda Benford, who has attended the event annually since 2004.

Benford involves herself in all parts of the Juneteenth celebration. Benford discovered the Blues Fest by chance while driving around town last year and caught the end of the performance.

“We went home, got these lawn chairs and came back,” Benford said. “We caught the last hour of it last year, but we’re going to be early this year.”

The Juneteenth celebration is more than just a parade and a Blues Fest to Benford.

“My parents were born in the 1920s here in Texas when it was a lot different,” Benford said.“Even though they weren’t slaves, they were sharecroppers which was just barely a level above being a slave. They couldn’t go where they wanted to go when they wanted to go. They couldn’t drive where they wanted to go. They were in segregated schools.”

Benford’s father quit school in fifth or sixth grade so that he could help take care of the family, and her mother was one of the first graduates from an all-black high school. The Juneteenth celebration is a way for community members to connect and reflect on history, said Benford.

“It’s something that we’ll never forget, and we should never forget so that we can appreciate what we have,” Benford said. “When I see this parade, I see a difference. I see the future that I only imagined as a child.”

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Nadia Abusaid
Nadia Abusaid, Life & Arts Writer
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