On Saturday, June 20, the Seminole Negro Indian Scout Cemetery Association held its annual Juneteenth celebration at the Carver School Grounds. Juneteenth or June 19th honors the day that Texans learned about the emancipation of slavery in 1865. Every year, the gathering seems to turn into an impromptu family reunion, as many who haven’t seen each other since last year or longer catch up over delicious barbeque, while old school music plays softly in the background.
The wonderful thing about Juneteenth is the memories it creates. Many in attendance were able to talk about previous Juneteenths, how much they’ve changed, what the weather was like then, and how they dressed. The children who attended were eager to learn more about Juneteenth and its traditions, and the elders were more than happy to oblige.
Before the barbeque plates were served, a short program was presented. Mrs. Bertha Benson of Del Rio gave the welcome. She thanked everyone for attending and gave a bit of history about Juneteenth and why we gather each year in Brackettville to celebrate this special day. Following Mrs. Benson was Mr. Jerry Fay of San Antonio. He said the opening prayer. His sister Mrs. Rafaela “Affie” Brown, who is vicepresident of the Seminole Negro Indian Scout Cemetery Association, gave a talk. The focus of her speech was the importance of keeping the association alive and continuing to support it. Lastly, Mr. Richard Griffin, the brother of the late Joni Mae Jordan, sang for those in attendance. He is a professional recording artist. Among his wonderful songs, he sang a beautiful cover of Ray Price’s “For the Good Times” that was particularly memorable. Throughout the day, laughter was the sound that was heard most often. There was a festive quality in the air that compelled everyone to relax and enjoy themselves and those around them. There is no better way to celebrate Juneteenth, which is all about freedom and being thankful.
One hundred fifty years ago, black Texans learned they were free, finally free, from the chains of slavery. Even though freedom was granted via a presidential decree, the following century and a half has seen its fill of huge strides forward and horrific steps backward. The huge steps forward are evident, but the steps backward, when they happen, can feel like salt on an already open wound. With that being said, Charleston, South Carolina’s Mother Emanuel AME Church was not far from our thoughts on Juneteenth, as we share a history and can trace our Seminole language to their descendants. Even though the mood was festive, they were on the minds and in the prayers of many. Each year, Juneteenth allows us to come together, to count our many blessings, to look back in wonder, and to look forward in hope.
Source: Kinney County Post, June 25 2015
Seminole Indian Scouts Cemetery Association PO Box 1797, Brackettville, TX 78832