CONWAY — The Juneteenth celebration planned for Saturday in Conway tocommemorate the end of slavery reminds organizer Charles Holloway of the unity after the area’s April tornado.
Holloway is president of the Faulkner County branch of the NAACP, which is sponsoring the event. The Conway resident said he had just landed in San Francisco, California, for a business meeting when the tornado hit Faulkner County.
“When I came back, a week later after the tornado hit, I was amazed at how everyone came together,” he said. “I saw all cultures helping one another.”
He said those affected by the tornado will be honored at the event, too, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in an open field at Sutton and Pine streets.
“We want all the tornado victims to come out,” Holloway said. “There will be free food.”
In addition to food, the event will include face painting, games for children and adults, music and the Conway Fire and Police departments. Holloway said Mayor Tab Townsell will make remarks, and gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross has confirmed that he will attend the celebration.
Although President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, not all slaves were freed then, including in Texas, Holloway said.
On June 19, 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger, a Union leader, and his soldiers came to Texas to enforce the end to slavery.
Holloway said Juneteenth is a state holiday in Texas and is a “big festival worldwide, although not necessarily in Arkansas.”
He pointed out that Granger was white, as were most of the troops, but they stepped in when they saw a group of people being mistreated “and rescued those people,” he said of the slaves.
“That’s what I saw when I got back from San Francisco. … People didn’t see skin color; they saw a group that needed help,” he said.
“That pretty much epitomizes what Juneteenth is — the coming together of the community,” Holloway said, adding that the celebration is for all cultures.
“At the end of the day, I hope that we will have a diverse crowd,” Holloway said. “We really try to reach out to the various cultures within Conway. Though this is an event that celebrates African-American heritage, if you will, I think we all need to come together and celebrate what all we’ve accomplished since 1865 as a state, as a county, as a community.
“It’s all about diversity — we’ve got to celebrate how far we’ve come, but we need to examine what all we need to do and how can we do a better job,” Holloway said.
For more information, contact Holloway at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.