When it comes to Summer celebrations, most peoples’ mind go to the Fourth of July. However, the month of June is home to two special occasions that are celebrated around Houston: the Juneteenth celebration and the Pride Festival. These two celebrations are of unique importance to the African American and LGBT community.
Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day, and it commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas. Even though President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in 1862, the slaves in Texas did not hear that they had been freed until Union forces in 1865. Today, residents of Texas continue to celebrate Juneteenth every June 19th.
Celebrations can be diverse and include singing traditional songs, reading popular works by African American writers, holding rodeos, historical reenactments, and other celebrations. Around Houston, Emancipation Park is often used to celebrate the occasion. Emancipation Park’s roots date back to just after the Civil War, when Reverend Jack Yates, a Baptist minister and former slave, bought ten acres of land where they could celebrate Juneteenth. A century later, Emancipation Park now stands where those same former slaves celebrated. Residents from throughout the city make the park a destination each year to celebrate and will do so once again in 2019.
However, Emancipation Park is not the only place where Juneteenth can be celebrated. Residents closer to Sugar Land can visit the George Ranch Historical Park for a very special Juneteenth celebration. The park is filled with historic reenactors and several homes that show how settlers lived from the early 1800s through the 21st century. This Juneteenth, visitors can enjoy a classic Texas BBQ while they watch reenactments of the Juneteenth proclamation and hear how people of the era might have reacted to the news.
Pride Festival is another yearly celebration held toward the end of the month that honors the LGBT community around Houston. Pride celebrations are held throughout the country during the same month, and Pride Month itself has a long history tracing its roots to the Stonewall Riots. In fact, the modern gay rights movement can be traced to those same riots, when members of the gay community protested the discrimination they were facing and the unfair arrests that were being made just because people were gay.
This yearly festival brings in more than 700,000 visitors not only from throughout Houston, but throughout the world. Pride Day will fall on June 22, 2019, the event itself is free to the public, although visitors can also buy special VIP tickets. The parade happens in Downtown Houston starting at eight in the evening and finishing at roughly 11 that night. After the parade, closing celebrations will be held at Rich’s Houston the following night.