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Picayune celebrates Juneteenth with inaugural event

Locals listened to live music, ate hot dogs and ribs and learned about the history of Juneteenth at the inaugural Picayune Juneteenth Celebration Saturday at J.P. Johnson Park.

Despite a late start, organizers were happy with the turnout, said Akim Ceaser, Pearl River County Juneteenth Committee co-chair.

The event featured representatives from Mississippi Action for Progress, the 2020 Census, the NAACP and the Pearl River County Democratic Party.

The Juneteenth Committee does not have a political affiliation and opened the event to any organization to help county residents register to vote, Ceaser said. The group was fortunate to have the NAACP and the Democratic Party offer voter registration, Ceaser said.

The event gave attendees an opportunity to learn about voting rights and neighborhood organizing, Ceaser said.

“It’s been very engaging for everyone to understand what Juneteenth is all about, but also to come together as a community and share fellowship,” said Renaca Haskin, who represented Mississippi Action for Progress at the event.

Sarah Herring manned a craft station where kids could turn colorful paper tubes into celebratory fireworks with pipe cleaners and stickers. Herring said the celebration gives people an awareness of where they come from.

“It has to begin somewhere and this was a good beginning,” Herring said.

Dorothy Brown owns an On the Go Gamerz bus with her husband Craig, and watched kids play video games inside and outside of the bus. Brown said the couple donated the use of their game bus to the event because the celebration gave older adults an opportunity to educate young people about the history of Juneteenth.

Attendee Breonne Spikes said the event was positive because it gathered the community and the youth for a joyful occasion instead of a sad occasion. Juanita Terrell said what she liked most was that the celebration was family friendly.

Tiffany Batiste brought two of her young granddaughters to the event to see what it was all about, she said.

“I brought them out today, because in the future their vote will count,” Batiste said.

Next year, the Juneteenth committee hopes to organize a larger event with more diversity, Ceaser said. Juneteenth is not just to recognize African American history, but American history and the group wants everyone to celebrate, she said.

“Our goal is to educate as well as generate diversity in the community,” Ceaser said.

The committee will begin planning for next year’s celebration by next week, and already has a date picked out: June 13, 2020, Ceaser said. Anyone who wants to get involved with planning the next Juneteenth Celebration can contact Ceaser at 769-926-8840.