Sunday, June 16, 2013

Juneteenth on a summer Saturday in the park

At the Juneteenth celebration in Cheyenne: Wyoming Democratic Party Reps (left to right) Lee Filer, Mary Throne and Jim Byrd. Photo from the Laramie County Democrats' Facebook page.
Wyoming is one of 42 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or special day of observance. In Wyoming, it's a special day of observance with nobody getting the day off. It's traditionally celebrated on the Saturday before the official date, which this year was yesterday, the ides of June.

Cheyenne has observed Juneteenth in Martin Luther King, Jr., Park for the past ten years. Situated on the stage is a monumental bust of MLK by Cheyenne artist Guadalupe "Lupe" Barajas. I dropped by to hang out with my wife Chris, who has been head of the celebration's planning committee for ten years. She just stepped down, as a decade is the most that anyone should be in charge of an event. 

I dined on a catfish, spicy baked beans, cole slaw and apple cobbler made by the good people at Beautiful Zion Church. I visited with my Democratic colleagues, including Wyoming Rep. Jim Byrd, Rep. Mary Throne, Rep. Lee Filer, Laramie County Democratic Party Chair Vince Rousseau, my retired WAC co-worker, Marirose Morris and her husband Bob, the Rev. Rodney McDowell, Deacon James Robinson, Dr. Jason Bloomberg and his wife Phyllis, and a whole bunch of others. It's a congenial gathering, punctuated by tunes by DJ Troy Burrell, a group of young rappers, folklorico group Flores De Colores and a martial arts demo by Jerry Davis and his crew.

What's not to like about a sunny June day outside in the land of high altitude, brisk winds and cold temps? In late afternoon, a roiling bank of dark clouds and a severe thunderstorm warning led to some worry, but the storm passed by and the day wrapped up without any mishaps. 

As a freckle-faced Irish-American, I may have a hard time making a claim to an African-American holiday. Am I not content with getting fluthered on St. Patrick's Day? That's not the point, is it? Juneteenth is as much a community happening as Fourth of July, Cheyenne Day, Veterans Day, New Year's Eve, Cinco de Mayo, Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. In Wyoming, this latter holiday is known as MLK/Wyoming Equality Day. Many of us get the day off, although the conservative legislature insists on being in session.

Juneteenth is in my community and celebrates members of our community.

Happy Juneteenth!

If you want to read about the holiday's history, go here

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