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Celebrating Juneteenth in Galveston

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By Ruth Ann Ruiz

The Post Newspaper Features Editor

With the Texas sun glaring in her eyes, Catherine Judson shared her husband’s vision for creating a Juneteenth Museum in Galveston. Though he is no longer alive, she carries on with his dream and has been instrumental in helping to secure funding to renovate the historic United States Customhouse into a permanent museum commemorating the ending of slavery.

Juneteenth was celebrated as a federal holiday for the second year and Galveston was alive with festive events throughout the weekend. Texas has honored the holiday since 1980. Galveston is the location in Texas where General George Granger delivered the news on June 19, 1865, that all slaves were free and were no longer property of their former owners. 

The Custom Building on 20th Street was christened as the Juneteenth Museum on Sunday. Guests were invited to listen to a reenactment of the proclamation read by General Granger. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee joined the gathering via an audio message. 

Inside the customshouse were inspirational speakers who focused on seeking ways to be sure everyone has a chance to be part of the American dream. Michael Anderson, with his little girl in his arms, was on the lineup of guest speakers. Galveston’s own, Tonya Nolan, was also present to inspire the attendees. 

Ashton Villa played host to the 43rd Annual Al Edwards’ Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday. Performing artist, Rebecca Marks Jimerson inspired the standing room only gathering as she sang “God Bless America.” She also portrayed Harriet Tubman and her passion brought to life the history of slavery.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee delivered a rousing speech. A surprise guest, Congresswoman Barbra Lee from California, was invited to address the crowd. Galveston Mayor Craig Brown spoke and was presented a Congressional Commendation for his work towards building the legacy of Juneteenth in Galveston. Members of the Edwards family were present.

The Thomson family, whose father was a minister and had celebrated Juneteenth every year at Ashton Villa, were full of smiles and enjoyed this year’s continuation of the tradition. 

As the mercury was moving up, Galveston’s Juneteenth parade began and even though it was 90 degrees it didn’t keep people from marching, riding, waving, throwing candy and just all around enjoying the celebration.

Galveston Railroad Museum honored Juneteenth with guest speaker George Lewis, whose life career was working for the railroad. He started in 1977 and retired in 2017. Throughout his career he served many people including former President George H.W. Bush and his family.

 His sweet disposition, kind words and smile that he gives away for no charge are part of what made him a treasure as a porter for the railroad industry. “I loved my work, it offered me the opportunity to travel. Believe it or not, before I started with the railroad I didn’t talk much,” said Lewis.

A childhood friend, Millie Taylor, heard he would be speaking, and she and her family came down from Houston just to say hello. 

Meanwhile up on the Seawall at McGuire Dent Park, a whole lot of people were setting up their canopies and getting ready to sell their arts and crafts. The park was converted into a marketplace with live entertainment and lots of grilled food available for purchase. 

Live entertainment included motivational speakers, musicians, a DJ, and a gospel comedian. Of course, as people felt it, they got up and danced to the music.

Earl Jones shared his family history. He discovered as a tree carving artist that one of the original trees he had carved was on a plantation where his great great-grandmother had once been a slave. 

For her first pop-up art show, Dannetta Aoudeau was pleased with the success. She came down from Houston. Aurelia Real brought her art to the island marketplace also from Houston. Her specialty is beaded jewelry.

Making sure they had a spot closest to the beach, a three-generation team of women were setting up their canopy at 7:00am. All three were happy to be part of marketplace. The youngest of the ladies is CEO of ” Jolivette Beauty Kids,” and her main product is lip-gloss for children ages 5 and up. 

Grilled hot dogs, peach cobbler and pineapple upside down cake from Noni’s Soul 4 Soul Events and Catarina are delicious. One of their team came in from Las Vegas to be part of the event. 

If it weren’t for the heat, it would have been a perfect weekend but if it weren’t for the heat there might have been a tropical storm, so for an island celebration of Juneteenth, it was a perfect weekend. 

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