Fort Smith honors the significance of Juneteenth


Carolyn Mosley’s ancestors were slaves. The Klu Klux Klan hanged her grandfather, and as a black woman she still faces oppression today.

That’s why it’s important for her to celebrate June 19, she said.

“Its meaning is freedom for African Americans, although we are still not completely free,” Mosley said.

Juneteenth occurs on June 19 and celebrates the day in 1865 when slaves in Galveston learned of their freedom, approximately two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Officers present the colors at the start of the June 19 celebration on Sunday.

This is the second year that June 19 has been recognized as a federal holiday.

Clayashbie Williams said it was important to honor the African Americans who came before her and made the June 19 celebration possible.

“Freedom is not free. People have paid with their lives,” Williams said.

Saleemah Jalaliddin is happy that Fort Smith celebrated June 19 this year. She said it took a long time to come.

Residents of Fort Smith commemorated Juneteenth through events Thursday through Sunday.

64.6 Downtown and the Fort Smith Roundtable have teamed up to bring the city free live music Thursday and Sunday

Thursday’s opening was Miss K’s Dance Bungalow. The New Breed Brass Band, a group from New Orleans, will follow as the headliner.

At Sunday’s event, comedian Joe Torry presented Songs of Freedom by the US Army Field Band Jazz Ensemble, featuring leaders from the civil rights movement. After that, jazz artist Rodney Block and Fort Smith artist Genine Latrice Perez performed.

John Altman has been part of the US Army Field Band Jazz Ensemble for 22 years. It was the band’s first time showing their performance, Songs of Freedom.

The 20-member group mixed music with historic videos that honored black members of the military.

“This story really highlights the exceptional American perseverance in the African-American community in particular,” Altman said.

Alexander Davis, also a member of the group, pointed out that blacks had been part of the US military since the Revolutionary War.

The videos began with an interview with William Fauntroy Jr., who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.

“I was fighting for my country,” Fauntroy said in the interview.

The band played music that matched the time period of each video and continued to progress to newer music as the show continued.

The City of Fort Smith, Walmart, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and Punkin Pictures have also teamed up to host June 19 events Friday and Saturday, according to a news release.

At 6 p.m. Friday, the organizations presented the Making History Gala at Freedom Farms. The evening included a cocktail reception and dinner by Chef James Thomas of Rialto Restaurant. There were also performances by local and regional musicians.

The play “A Raisin in the Sun” debuted Saturday at 7 p.m. at the ArcBest Performing Arts Center. The Mayor’s Office collaborated with Punkin Pictures to present the play. Silvia Mathis, the founder of Punkin Pictures, directs the performance.

Alex Gladden graduated from the University of Arkansas. She previously worked for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and The Jonesboro Sun before joining The Times Record. She can be contacted at


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