By Hailey Persinger
Killeen Daily Herald
Dozens of community members gathered Friday to march the streets of Killeen in celebration of the end of slavery in the United States.
This week marked the 145th anniversary of Juneteenth, an entire week devoted to the commemoration of the abolishment of slavery. Killeen Mayor Tim Hancock led strings of cars, members of various organizations and people hoping to get the message out about the celebration through downtown Killeen for the fourth consecutive year.
Friday's parade was one of several celebratory activities planned by Killeen's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples.
President Phyllis Jones said planning for the entire weekend's festivities took about six months but that gathering people to participate in the parade took only a few quick meetings.
She said that after sharing the message of Juneteenth with some area groups, they took no time in signing on to help celebrate.
While the parade is a celebration, Jones said that for her, it's also a way to bring people of all different demographics together for one cause.
"We need to show community support," she said. "When something (like this) comes up, we can all come together."
Killeen resident Karen Monton has lived in the city longer than NAACP has coordinated celebrations like Friday's. She said she's seen and celebrated the growing current of acceptance in Killeen since 1972.
"We know that we're just in the fledgling stages of this," she said. "We like to see progress."
For others, though, the parade did not live up to the occasion.
Killeen resident Wilbert Wright said he wished more people had come out to celebrate what he said should be a jubilant day.
Originally from Missouri, Wright said he did not experience Juneteenth celebrations until he moved to Texas in 1991.
"Nobody's asking to bring everybody in the whole city out," he said. "But shouldn't it be a celebration? Somebody's got to do more."
The NAACP celebration carried over into the night at the third Miss Juneteenth pageant at the Plaza Hotel in Killeen. The events culminate this morning with a picnic at the Killeen Community Center.
Contact Hailey Persinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcity.
Juneteenth events today
Celebrate Juneteenth with Stronjea Enterprise, during its program from 2 to 5 p.m. today in front of Dillards in the Killeen Mall. The afternoon includes poetry, singers, dance interpretation, skits and a mini fashion show to create awareness about African-American history.
Word of Life Substance Center plans two events during its fifth annual Juneteenth Celebration today.
The Youth Explosion is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Camp Triumph, 1203 Pecan Cove in Copperas Cove. Food vendors and exhibitors will be on-site and there will be entertainment, bumper cars and inflatables. Children under 4 are admitted for free. Wristbands for other ages are $10.
The celebration continues with a concert Saturday night at the Christian House of Prayer in Copperas Cove. The show features a 100-voice choir, God's Appointed and Anointed Quartet Group, the Divine Messengers from Abilene and Bishop Gregory Jones of Shreveport, La. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the concert starts at 6 p.m. Tickets in advance are $10 at 420 N. Gray St. in Killeen and are $15 at the door.
For more information, call (254) 690-9673.