Prescott JP Willie Wilson speaks of chains needing breaking at city's Juneteenth celebration Wednesday
Prescott’s celebration of Juneteenth happened Wednesday on the grounds of the Nevada County Courthouse. Food trucks, bouncy castles, music, bake sales, petition-signing, reading-promoting, catfish frying and speech-making were the forms of celebration to be seen and heard starting at 11:00 a.m. 

At noon, Lisa Simpson, Associate Pastor of Ward Chapel AME Church, and Jessica Box, organizer of the day’s events took to the steps of the courthouse. There were singings of songs by John Nolen and by a children’s choir called the Sunshine Band. 

Patricia Roberts introduced Nevada County Justice of the Peace and Prescott Public Schools Counselor Willie Wilson. “He's a counselor there for them. When they're in trouble and they need somebody to go to, to talk to, they go to Mister Wilson. Mister Wilson is there, and he wants to help,” Wilson said. 

Wilson told the story of Samuel, a slave in Galveston who was there June 19, 1865 to hear news of his freedom two years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves within the United States. “He heard this while he was chopping cotton in the field,” Wilson said. “How did Samuel respond to this? Samuel experienced revelation. He gathered his family, he joined his friends, he danced and he cried over his newfound freedom. The attitude of Samuel that day was the beginning of a new journey. Samuel’s chains had been broken.” 

It was because of the lack of means to get news that Samuel and his community did not hear the news of freedom until two years after Lincoln made it a matter of federal policy. “We did not have a form of communication, and certainly our white taskmasters were not going to tell us that we were free. And that's one of the main things we experience today, that we do not have information. We have all access to information, but for some reason, we do not utilize our information,” Wilson said. 

Wilson described the various ways chains still remain to be broken. “The first chain is in our educational system. As African-American children, we are not performing at our highest potential. We are being chained, and one reason for this is our sub performance. It is not coming from the community., it’s not coming from the family that we are smart, that we are intelligent, that we are a very bright group of people. We have been misguided that the only thing that we can do well in is athletics. I have seen some of our children go take the ACT in a casual manner and make a 25, but they do not put that same energy, they do not put that same enthusiasm into the classroom,” Wilson said. 

Wilson called for public support for a pre-kindergarten program as well as summer enrichment programs for current Prescott students: “We need you need to support this, to demand this, make certain that we are accountable to this. There needs to be quality programs, educational tools, but at least every parent, every child, needs to have a laptop in their home. Because, if not, you know that particular child is going to be left behind, because we are a technological age. Yes, all parents cannot afford a laptop now but there are government funds that are available to have this in their house.” 

He also said cohesiveness in the family unit is a necessity for breaking chains and claiming freedom. “Reality says that the mother and father in some situations, are not always together, but that father needs to be in the life of his own children.  At parent-teacher conferences, if we have 225 parents to come up, 200 of them will be the mother. Where are the fathers?” Wilson asked. 

As for the difficulty of attaining home ownership, Wilson said there are programs available to provide help. “We have not been made aware that there are government agencies that have loans that are designed for individuals who make under $50,000 to get a loan, a low interest loan. The USDA in Hope, Arkansas, Rural Development is an organization that provides low interest loans for individuals that make under $50,000. There is a initiative in Arkansas called the StartSmart initiative. Nevada County is one of the 30 counties that is listed in this StartSmart program, and that means that there are lending institutions that will let you have money to purchase a home at low interest rates.” 

The next chain Wilson named is politics. He lamented the low turnout in local elections. “Nevada County; Prescott, Arkansas has 45 percent African Americans. District Two and District Four are predominantly African American. In our history we’ve had the lowest voter turnout in the last election. How can we expect to effectuate change if we don't go to the polls right now?” Wilson asked. He then referred to a petition being circulated at the observance to place an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution on the ballot that would, among other things, would require public and private schools to uphold the same standards. 

Wilson said the next chain to break regarded the Black Church. “We are so territorial here. One church is doing their thing over here, another church is doing their thing over here. Now I understand revivals and all of that, but why can't all of the churches come together for one big, massive back-to-school affair? As opposed to one church doing it one Saturday, another church do it in another Sunday, another outreach ministry doing another all of that as well, as opposed to coming together?” Wilson asked. 

Also at the event, a fish-fry fundraiser was being operated by volunteers to benefit Prescott Police Chief Ann Jones and Officer Jeremy Hendrix who are both receiving medical treatment. The Nevada County Library also had a table laden with free books for children.