6.30.2011

Evening of gospel music closes Juneteenth weekend

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A weekend of Juneteenth celebrations came to a close Sunday with an evening of praise, rejoicing and song.

More than 350 people braved the 107-degree heat and blowing dust to gather for gospel music and performances during the Unified Juneteenth Committee's Gospel Stage Show, featuring the Community Mass Choir and local gospel talent at Mae Simmons Park.

For performers like 14-year-old Jakaja Robinson, braving the heat was a worthwhile sacrifice to celebrate Juneteenth and share their spiritual message with the community, she said.

She admitted she was nervous and intimidated by the heat before she took to the outdoor stage to sing "He Wants It All."

"At first I was like 'I don't think I can do this. It's too hot,'" she said. "But I built up my confidence and did it for the glory of God."

This year's Juneteenth events were the first organized by the newly created committee and organizers and attendees said they thought the results were a success.

"They've been able to do different attractions, to bring out the young people, to bring out the old people and bring out the children because it's about unity," said Jocelyn Clay. "It's not just the black community, it's all races and that's what it's all about."

Clay said she has attended Lubbock's Juneteenth event for decades and believed this weekend's events, especially the gospel music performances, were among the best she's seen.

Clay was among dozens who danced and clapped their hands to the gospel music of such acts at the Mitchell Sisters, the Community Baptist Church Choir and a variety of other church choirs and acts.

Others in the crowd seemed content lounging in the shade, eating an assortment of barbecue or playing football in the grass near the lake.

"The atmosphere is very pleasant; it's an atmosphere of fellowship," said Latrice Godfrey, president of the commission.

Godfrey said organizers created the commission as a way to start anew the Juneteenth events of the past and revitalize the city's celebrations of the June 19 holiday.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of slaves in Texas at the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Godfrey said she was excited by what she thought was a surprising turnout at the weekend's events despite the unsavory heat and wind.

"I think it has been excellent," she said. "I think it means when you add a little bit of every community it makes a difference."

The Juneteenth commission's events included a Friday evening reception honoring late civic leader Eddie Richardson, a Saturday morning parade through east Lubbock and a community talent showcase featuring former American Idol contestant Jerome Bell.

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