Hempstead County Juneteenth Festival kicks off with royalty and celebrates resilience, history, liberation

After the parade this morning, the festival for Hempstead County Juneteenth 2023 kicked off with a lineup of royalty. This cheerful group of smiling youth were more than happy to line up for a photo op with the SWARK.Today photographer before they were announced individually in preparation for tomorrow's Celebration of Liberation Juneteenth Royalty Pageant & Fatherhood Recognition event.

In addition to the radiant royalty and informational speaking, the event included vendors for shopping, a bounce house for the kids, and a DJ to provide festive music. Food was available for festival patrons through the Shaved Ice hut and The Dugout, or guests could try out some of the hot dogs provided by the Hempstead County Sheriff's Office, who were also on the scene with other games and trinkets for the kiddos. They were joined by officers from the Hope Police Department, all there to support Hempstead County Juneteenth 2023.

Nikita Goode-Itegbojie, there with her booth African Attire, said she was pleased to join in the celebration today. "Events like this help people understand the history and how it all started," Goode-Itegbojie said. "Black, white, it doesnt matter, everyone should all just get togehter and have a good time."

Sylvia Brown, from VOTE SoAR and facilitator of Hempstead County Juneteenth 2023, spoke with SWARK.Today and shared the inspiration for the celebration. "I was listening to my neighbors and community members, particularly Black Hempstead Countians, who were interested in having recognition for the history, resilience, and liberation of our community," Brown said. "This year we wanted to expand on what we did last year with the reception last night, today's events, and the Royalty Pageant & Fatherhood Recognition for tomorrow. It's about recognizing that Hempstead County has a population of 27 percent African-American and one way we can start to express support for that 27 percent is the representation of civic institutions starting with the community."

Brown also expressed appreciation to the City of Hope and the Hempstead County Quorum Court for passing the resolution recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday. "That's a great big step in recognizing visibility and values of Black Hempstead Countians," she said. Brown said the day's events would also include speakers sharing Black folktales and African folktales to recognize that the community members have a long history.

A June 6th VOTE SoAR press release stated that proud sponsors of the event are as follows:

Black Futures Sponsors 
City of Hope Tourism Commission
Hope Auto
Summit Utilities 

Carter G. Woodson Pioneers Sponsors
Amigo Juan
McDonald's/Steve Montgomery Co. Inc.
Sylvia C. Brown

Support of the educational programming of Arkansas history and culture for Hempstead County Juneteenth 2023 provided by Friends of Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Historic Washington State Park Foundation, and the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Special Mention to AEP-SWEPCO.