Juneteenth celebrates African-American heritage

Sunday, June 20, 2010 | 8:04 p.m. CDT; updated 8:24 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 21, 2010
Earnestine Campbell displays the work of various artists depicting different aspects of African-American culture and history. "People should see it's not just basketball and baseball players," she said. Campbell travels with her collection of artworks and sells them at events such as the Juneteenth celebration Sunday in Douglass Park.

COLUMBIA — Music rang out in Douglass Park on Sunday, pulling in Juneteenth celebrators from blocks away. But the disc jockey offered more than tunes.

“Totally smart,” she interjected between the lines of a funk track. “Very intellectual.”

Event-goers to the African-American heritage celebration had just heard a presentation by a Columbia Public Schools representative encouraging interaction among parents and the schools. DJ Annette Driver, who works for KJLU FM in Jefferson City, also spoke about education and African-American history in between songs.

“African-Americans need to wake up,” she said in an interview. “It starts with educating kids, first and foremost. Then we can enrich communities and improve the quality of life.”

She watched as a young boy slapped a man’s palm.

“See?” Driver said. “He just did what his daddy did.”

Good role models and attentive family members will help children succeed in school, said Driver, who also works for Lincoln University. She added that an African-American parents' group would help keep public schools accountable for education.

“They still don’t get it,” Driver said as she looked into the crowd. She hopes Juneteenth will become a more serious holiday that could help strengthen connections within the African-American community.

“If we’re not really out here taking care of business, the music’s just distraction,” Driver said.

James Holmes, a Columbia resident for more than 30 years, brought his family to Juneteenth because he values the opportunity the event gives for people to come together as a community.

“This is a good time for us to come out and support one another,” he said.

Holmes, who said he was once an alcoholic and lived on the streets, is now an associate pastor at Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. He recently obtained a business license for JZ Limozine Service, which he said is the first limousine company in Columbia owned by an African-American. He hopes the business will serve the community as well as provide additional income for his family.

“It’s not so much about color; you got to be smart,” he said. “The sky’s the limit.”

Earnesgine Campbell came from Arkansas to visit family and to display framed pictures of religious figures, jazz musicians, civil rights leaders and step dancers along the Douglass Park fence on Rogers Street.

“The only way a lot of children in the South get exposure to this history is through art,” she said.

Campbell, who also teaches third grade, has brought the paintings to Columbia events such as Juneteenth for about five years.

Michael Love, a Columbia resident, began a conversation with Campbell about their heritage.

“I’m Mexican, Cherokee, Blackfoot, Irish and Ethiopian,” Love said.

“I can tell by the texture of your hair, there was some mixing going on,” Campbell said.

The women agreed that people need to feel confident when talking about their color.

“Until we embrace it, being open, it’ll be like a hidden story,” Campbell said. “Especially in Columbia, people want to know the history.”

Despite the heat on Sunday afternoon, Shirley Roane and Vernon Jackson dance at the Juneteenth celebration in Douglass Park.
Kenneth Harris-Jones, left, and Chatrina Wilkins take their time viewing a display on African-American history at the Juneteenth celebration in Douglass Park.
Mike McClain, right, plays dominoes with Eric Cravens at the Juneteenth celebration at Douglass Park on Sunday.

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Nathan Stephens June 21, 2010 | 7:58 a.m.

Just an FYI there is an African American parents groups called the Black Parents Association of Columbia Public Schools. The website is The group is struggling due to a lack of organizational participation. We often receive calls but we would like to hear from people willing to hold positions in the board of directors and organize events. Also events like Juneteenth are really great for those of us that understand the history and heritage associated with it. Many youth in the new millenium do not make the connection between the displays that were shown and present day. We as adults have to do a better job of helping them to "connect the dots."

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