3rd annual Juneteenth event Saturday at Willie Lynch Park
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
Games, workshops, entertainment and community outreach efforts are on tap for Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration, to be held at Newnan’s Willie Lynch Park from noon to 6 p.m.
The park is located on Wesley Street, near the intersection with Richard Allen Drive.
“It was initially started because people wanted to find their families,” said Brittany Harrison, event organizer. “Now, today, we use it as a community reunion.”
This is the third annual Newnan event. It was started by Harrison and her husband, Landen, under the auspices of their non-profit, No Longer Tied Outreach. Coweta’s African-American Alliance is also involved in this year’s Juneteenth celebration.
Service organizations including One Roof Outreach and Meals on Wheels of Coweta, as well as the African American Heritage Museum and Research Center, will have booths set up in order to let the community know who they are and what they do.
Most of the organizations will also be operating family games, which begin at 1 p.m.
Also on hand will be representatives of the Newnan Fire Department and Newnan Police Department, as well as a step team from East Coweta High School.
“We’re looking for the whole community to come out,” said Toni Teagle, African American Alliance president. “It is not just for African Americans, it is open for anybody that wants to come,” she said.
“Come out and a have a great time, learn and enjoy,” she said. The event is kid-friendly but is for adults, too. Visitors are invited to bring lawn chairs to enjoy the entertainment.
Healthy living workshops will be held in the Wesley Street Gym from 12:30 to 4 p.m..
Jerusha Jacobs will talk about fitness and lifestyle coaching from 12:30 to 1. From 1 to 2 p.m, Jill Reeves from Coweta Pregnancy Services will do a presentation for families, talking about “touchy topics.”
Mary Chitwood, a Piedmont Newnan Hospital dietician, will give tips on preparing healthier meals from 2 to 3 p.m., and stylist Regina Richardson will discuss taking care of curls and locks from 3 to 4 p.m.
Entertainment begins at 4 p.m. and will include music, poetry, praise dancers, Harrison talking about Juneteenth, and a comedian. Radio DJ Silas “Si Man” Baby Alexander will round out the entertainment. There will also be a raffle.
Performers include Final Breakthrough, Liliah, Eddie Jackson, and comedian OD.
Free hot dogs will be served.
“Expect a lot of unity,” said Harrison. “The theme is ‘come out and see who is in your community,’” she said.
The event has gotten bigger and better each year, and Harrison hopes to continue the trend.
“I thought we had a great time last year,” Harrison said. “The entertainment was great, the community was awesome, everybody was participating.”
The first Juneteenth celebration was held in Galveston, Texas, after Union soldiers arrived and informed the slaves they were free — two months after the end of the Civil War and two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth is a major event in many communities.
Harrison got the idea to start a Juneteenth event in Newnan after visiting Mississippi during Juneteenth celebrations with her husband. “He told me all about Juneteenth,” she said. “I went online and did some research. I said, ‘Newnan has got to have this!’” Harrison said.
“Our community is a great community. And if we could do a yearly reunion, just imagine how awesome that would be,” she said.
The African American Alliance held Coweta’s first Juneteenth celebration several years ago. This year, Teagle got in touch with Harrison to be involved.
Teagle was full of praise for Harrison.
“She has worked and worked to the bone” to put the event together, Teagle said. “We want to thank her for doing such a fabulous and wonderful job of putting this event together.”