Juneteenth Fest Weekend starts in Hope with History Block Party, Fashion Show
Hempstead County’s Juneteenth Fest weekend got underway Friday evening at Hope’s Pocket Park with a Celebration of History Block Party. It began with a speech on the meaning of the occasion and proceeded to a fashion show with designs from Nigeria. On Saturday, a Juneteenth parade will start from Henry C. Yerger Museum and proceed to Northside Park where there will be a festival. 

At about 4:30 p.m. at Hope’s Pocket Park, VOTE SoAR (Visibility Outreach Touch Engage South Arkansas) Organizer and NAACP Hope-Hempstead County Branch President Sylvia Brown began by leading a rendition of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” then explained the significance of June 19th in American history. 

As Brown said, “General order number three [being] read on June 19, 1865 announcing that all slaves were free is one of Galveston, Texas' most important historical moments, remembering that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing enslaved persons in January 2, 1863, not until two years later did that message get to those folks. It was because Texas and several Confederate states chose not to get that message. … 

“So more than two and a half years later, in June of 1865 more than 2,000 federal soldiers of the 13th Army Corps arrived in Galveston. Major General Gordon Ranger delivered general order number three.” 

Brown read the words of the order. “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts.” 

Brown said a friend had posted the information that a slave auction had occurred in 1842 in Spring Hill. “We think these things are far off or way down the road, but way down the road was just right here in our neighborhood, in our community, and that's why, critically, it's important to remember that this Juneteenth is a celebration of history, resilience and liberation.” 

Brown also recounted that a Galveston newspaper in 1866 reported a celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation in the form of a parade and church meetings. “That's why you have that linkage to doing parades, that linkage to picnics, that linkage to the jovial nature, that linkage to speeches that are encouraging folks to stay in the fight, to take advantage of your rights, to take advantage of your humanity. So a meeting was also held at the colored church. That is a another significance, that our faith has always been a part of our resilience and continues to be a part of our liberation,” Brown said. 

Brown then introduced Nikita Goode Itegbojie, who presided over a fashion show of dresses for women and outfits for men available at her shop Princess Nikita’s African Attire, which is located at 707 South Hervey Street in Hope. She and her husband started the shop after a trip to Nigeria inspired her: “Princess Nikita African attire was founded when I took a trip to Nigeria to visit my husband. I would see the ladies and gentlemen with vibrant colors, dressed like royalty every day. It was just a beautiful sight to see. 

“I was telling my husband how beautiful everyone was, and I would love to have some of their clothing. While there, my husband made arrangements for me to get fitted by a young man who was a tailor. He made my first native outfit, and I instantly fell in love with the African attire. Ever since, from that day forward, our brand was born.” The business was begun in 2018. 

Twelve models showed off colorful dresses and dashikis to the appreciative attendees at the Pocket Park, turning that location’s arched stage area and cement path into a catwalk for about an hour to the tune of songs chosen by DJ Charles Henry. The evening sun set off the vivid floral and patterned colors. 

After the fashion show, there were games of African-American history-themed Bingo and the Shell-Shock Foodtruck opened for orders. 

Juneteenth in Hempstead County continues tomorrow with the Celebration of Resilience Parade and Festival. The parade will start at 10:30 a.m. Saturday June 15th from Historic Henry C. Yerger Museum at 401 Henry C Yerger Street and proceed to North Side Park on 1709 North Spruce Street.  On Sunday, June 16th at North Side Park’s Washington-Douglas Community Center the Celebration of Liberation Juneteenth Royalty Pageant and Fatherhood Recognition event will take place. 

At Friday’s event, a table was set up by volunteers offering five petitions for Arkansans to sign to attempt to get constitutional amendments on the ballot for the November elections. They will also be set up at Saturday’s festival at North Side Park.