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On June 19 at Audubon Park, Garland put its own stamp on the celebration of Juneteenth.
The Juneteenth Committee’s vision came to life as dancers, speakers and vendors assembled at the park. Many children played games; a select few were honored as winners of the Juneteenth essay contest. At the request of one committee member, the Buster Brown Band reunited on site, coming from as far away as Colorado to play together for the first time since 2015.
Then there were steps taken to localize the historical significance of an event that took place in 1857, before Garland even existed. Garland’s legacy came to the stage in the form of Ron Jones, former Garland mayor and assistant city manager; Linda Griffin, the Garland Independent School District board’s vice president and longest-serving trustee; and Pastor Leonard Leach, who since 1996 has led Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church, one of the largest congregations in the city. And just offstage, people who helped pave the way were featured in the traveling version of the Garland Landmark Museum’s “A Series of Firsts: Garland’s Black Community Leaders” exhibit.
Garland leaders knew there was cause for a local event in mid-2021 when Juneteenth was made a federal holiday. But the key to success was in engaging residents for the committee and to craft the event.
“I was so impressed with how many younger people served,” Committee member Gwendolyn Daniels said. “And that the City allowed the citizens to use their own vision to help pull it off.”
Mayor Scott LeMay stressed that the future success of the event was dependent on continued input. “Tell us how to make it better.”