ABOVE: MCJCF Executive Director Derrick Woods, Forward Times Publisher/CEO Karen Carter Richards and MCJCF
Photo by J. Raphael’s Photography
This past week, attendees from Missouri City and all across the Greater Houston area, came together to help the Missouri City Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (MCJCF) celebrate 15 years of putting on their week-long set of activities in honor of the Juneteenth holiday.
The MCJCF is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization and puts on the largest Juneteenth celebration of its kind in the entire nation. During the fall of 2002, District B Councilmember Don Smith had a vision to organize residents, business owners, and stakeholders within Missouri City for the purposes of launching the annual Juneteenth tradition. Smith eventually connected with MCJCF Executive Director Derrick Woods to share his vision, and as a result of their collaboration, a family-driven, week-long celebration of purpose and substance was launched.
This year, the Forward Times partnered with the MCJCF this year, with a focus to drive attendance and help bring more awareness to this important holiday, while seeking to establish a long-range partnership with the MCJCF to help grow this celebration even more.
“We are extremely proud to be able to provide scholarships to deserving students across Fort Bend County, while also bringing positive attention to African Americans as we celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Councilmember Smith. “It is humbling to see something that God gave me as a mere vision, turn out to make such an impact in this community. We hope to build on that even more as we work to get the message out to the community with our new partners at the Forward Times, and others who see the value in celebrating our rich history.”
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas on June 19, 1865. Although President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, Texas, as a part of the Confederacy, was resistant to the Emancipation Proclamation. Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 18, 1865 and on June 19, 1865, informed the people that all slaves were free.
The MCJCF has a major focus on building on their 15-year foundation to make sure more people are aware of Juneteenth and the wonderful celebration that is offered to the community annually.
“We are excited that this was our biggest and best celebration to date, due in part to our ability to foster and retain our existing quality relationships, and to foster new relationships like we have with the Forward Times and many others,” said MCJCF Executive Director Derrick Woods. “We anticipate next year’s celebration will be even better, as we seek to bolster our reach into the community and spread the message of cultural awareness with exciting new additions to the celebration.”
This year, the MCJCF pulled out all the stops to make this year’s week-long celebration extremely memorable.
On Monday, June 12th, the annual MCJCF Scholarship Golf Tournament was held at the Quail Valley Golf Course, where golfers not only enjoyed a competitive round of golf, prizes and awards; but most importantly, helped the MCJCF raise much needed funds for scholarships that annually go to deserving Fort Bend County students.
On Thursday, June 15th, the annual MCJCF Community Service Awards Gala was held at the City Centre at Quail Valley. The gala recognized two outstanding individuals from Fort Bend ISD – Dr. Marla Sheppard, Assistant Superintendent Fort Bend ISD and Ms. Jerrie Kammerman, Principal, Missouri City Middle School. Several Fort Bend area students were also awarded scholarships. This year’s keynote speaker was Texas Southern University President Dr. Austin Lane, who consistently emphasized that “education leads to emancipation,” and talked about the importance of ensuring TSU remains the flagship HBCU across the country and making sure we empower minority students who are underperforming in the current public school system.
On Friday, June 16th, the MCJCF held its “Funday in the Park” – a free event that was open to the general public at Hunters Glen Park. The event included activities for all, including carnival-themed games, bounce houses, face painting, crafts tables and more, and also included specialized food vendors. Houston Community College also presented the award-winning critically acclaimed movie, “Hidden Figures” on a giant screen for the community.
On Saturday, June 17th, the MCJCF kicked off the day with its Community Art Exhibit “It Takes a Village” event, curated by fabric artist Carolyn Crump, which took place at the Missouri City Community Center in the City Hall Complex.
The MCJCF then presented its ever-popular “One Mile of Smiles” Parade, where thousands of attendees gathered along the parade route that began on Texas Parkway (FM 2234) and ended at Hunters Glen Park. Elected officials gathered along with sponsors, local marching bands, civic groups, corporations, floats, other dignitaries and many more to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday in high fashion. A Battle of the Bands began right after the “One Mile of Smiles” Parade at Hunters Glen Park, leading up to the MCJCF hosting its major concert at Hunters Glen Park called the “Festival Under the Stars,” where thousands of attendees gathered to hear the legendary R&B funk band “Lakeside” perform, along with other talented musicians and performers like soul-jazz flutist Althea Rene and saxophonist Theresa Grayson. City Manager Anthony Snipes presented Lakeside a proclamation on behalf of the City of Missouri City.
Among those spotted at the week-long set of activities included MCJCF founder Don Smith and his wife; Forward Times Publisher/CEO Karen Carter Richards; Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen; State Representative Ron Reynolds and wife Jonita Reynolds; Fort Bend County Commissioner Grady Prestage; Missouri City Mayor Pro Tem Floyd Emery; Constable Gary Majors and wife Dawn Majors; Cary P. Yates and his wife Judge Clarease Yates; City Manager Anthony Snipes; HCC Trustee Neeta Sane; Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupree; Fort Bend ISD Board President Kristin Tassin; TSU Assistant Vice President Connie L. Cochran; Clarence “Doc” Holliday; Loveless Mitchell; Llarance Turner; Bobby Merchant, George E. Johnson and Thomasine Johnson; former Houston Oilers defensive back Willie Tullis; Anthony Hawkins; TSU President Austin Lane; Troy Carter; Oscar McGarr; Pernell Davis; Max Edison; and many more.