June 19 only became a federal holiday last year. It had been celebrated in Texas long before every June 19 – although enslaved blacks were emancipated in 1865, Texas held on to freeing its slaves until 1867 – and over the years it spread across all the countries. Yet many do not fully understand its significance as a Black Independence Day.
Daniel Shouse and Theo Morgan set out to change that in Terre Haute starting in 2020, with a small event hampered by COVID. Saturday’s diverse crowd was packed at the Booker T. Washington Community Center, with a plethora of vendor tents offering gifts, t-shirts and plenty of food, 3-on-3 basketball, a mini car show, a children’s area and live music from Dream Team Live. It continued into the evening with fireworks and a glow-in-the-dark foam party at American Legion Post 340.
“We didn’t expect anything like this – we just wanted to get together and talk about Juneteenth and raise awareness and get people to come home for Terre Haute Day,” Morgan said. “Last year we had over 1,000 people. It’s grown – we’re at well over 2,000 people this year.”
Shouse added, “It started with the 2,000 Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas, and announced to all the people of Texas that they had been emancipated and freed from slavery. Connecting that to today Today, when we all stand in It’s our Emancipation Proclamation to be honored in this way.That June 16 is a federal holiday now is a victory for the African American community.
Although Juneteenth was originally a Texas statewide deception, it is inspirational today, Shouse said.
“It showed through hard work, determination and pushing yourself, if you stick to your goals and what you believe in, that no matter what anyone may think, you can overcome any obstacle in life,” he said. “This is important – we want everyone to know that you are going to experience things like our ancestors did, triumphs, struggles and troubles. For them to overcome this and for us to inherit their hard work today.” today and the blessings we can to share and raise awareness of the importance of Juneteenth.”
A number of events across the city celebrated on June 19, starting Thursday when Launch Terre Haute hosted Pitch Black, a chance for black entrepreneurs to compete for funding for their business ideas. Morgan and Shouse’s event also celebrated Terre Haute Day, which invited Hautans who had left town to return for a visit. A June 19 Freedom Celebration was held Sunday at the Vigo County History Center.
Darrell Shouse, Daniel’s uncle, brought eight of his vintage cars for onlookers to admire, including a 1974 Corvette that Darrell had customized to include comic book hero Black Panther on its hood, in memory of the late actor Chadwick Boseman. He also had a car with the DC Comics characters Batman and the Joker juxtaposed on the hood. Darrell confessed that he was a big fan of comic books and old cars.
Darrell was happy to celebrate Juneteenth. “It was about time,” he said. “We’ve always celebrated it, like Martin Luther King Day – in the 70s we used to take off on that day even though we weren’t supposed to. It’s for everyone – it’s not just for the African American community. It’s for anyone who wants to have a good time and meet people.”
Another Shouse – Tenisha, Darrell’s daughter – was also busy on Saturday. As the owner of the Indy Vegan Valet restaurant in Indianapolis, she sold vegan tacos from her tent — one customer already had six and was ready for more.
“I want people to know that just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean we only eat lettuce and tomatoes,” said Tenisha, whose restaurant will be open for a year in September. “The plant-based lifestyle has really evolved since I started eight years ago.”
She added that the June 19 celebration was important because it was “spreading awareness so this can be the norm and the black community can keep moving forward.”
Celeste Miller, who along with her father Stephen Miller offered ribs and ribs in their tent representing their business Miller’s Cove Bar and Lounge, added: “We are celebrating June 16th instead of July 4th. We we come together as a community and celebrate our freedom We said we were free in 1865 but Texas held out until 1867 but we are still celebrating 1865. Everything is a party.
Jasmine Lewis was handing out free resources and gadgets and raising awareness about mental health on behalf of the Hamilton Center. She said: “This generation needs to know what Juneteenth is – my kids, in particular, had no idea what it was.”
Hamilton Center celebrates Juneteenth Monday with an 8-10 a.m. program. Employees then have the rest of the day off.
David Kronke can be reached at 812-231-4232 or [email protected]