Mayor Turner’s Annual Acres Homes Juneteenth Parade took place early Saturday morning in Northeast Houston. The annual celebration memorializes the day when African-American slaves in Southern states received the news of their emancipation. Despite slavery officially ending on September 22 with President Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, the news took a considerable amount of time to reach Southern states. Texas’ geographical isolation, along with the fact that no major battles were fought here, caused enslaved individuals within the state to only receive the news on June 19, 1865 when Union Army General Gordon Grader announced their freedom.
The parade featured notable Houstonians such as Mayor Sylvester Turner along with Booker T. Washington’s band, Rep. Beto O’ Rourke, former Houston Rocket Clyde Drexler, and many local Houston businesses and organizations.
As one lifelong resident of the Acres Home community said, “This event takes a lot of attention away from the madness and negative attention that we often have to deal with, it gives us a moment to support everybody and make sure everything goes right.”
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The parade itself has a strong focus on supporting local organizations such as Light Up the Night, which is an organization that uses bikes adorned with lights to host night rides for Houston residents. Brandon Perry, who was participating in the parade with fellow bikers, said, “We’ve been doing it for about year and we started out of this neighborhood. It's easier and safer for children to ride at night when their bikes light up and it helps make sure they go to school.”
Two onlookers, Vanesha and Macie, sat beneath their umbrellas enjoying the parade and cheering participants. Vanesha provided an important context on the parade's significance noting that, “The parade allows us to celebrate our freedom. When you move forward and you forget the past, it’s easy to repeat it and fall victim to different forms of slavery such as mental enslavement”.
As an educator who recently moved to Houston from Iowa, Macie shared some thoughts on her first Juneteenth celebration, “I think it's important to have this information available to younger generations, so they may know the sacrifices that have been made that enable them to go to school and do a lot of the things they enjoy today”.
The parade ended at Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church at noon, but if you missed it there will be more events in this upcoming week for Houstonians to celebrate Juneteenth, most notably the Gulf Coast Juneteenth celebration at Miller Outdoor Theatre beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.