By Future Brown, Herald Democrat
In 2021, Congress voted to make June 16 a national federal holiday. In 2022, Grayson County’s June 16th commemoration organizers are taking advantage of holiday information about the region’s history and a once-thriving black business district.
The annual Juneteenth celebration in Sherman will be a two-day event beginning on Friday with a tour of what was formerly the Black Business District area and on Saturday with a festival and community gathering.
“The only reason we had two days was because we didn’t want people running in direct heat,” Grayson United member and organizer Erik Jackson said on Wednesday. “The original plan was to include it in the Saturday event and start the hike around 1pm. This will be almost the hottest part of the day. Some on the committee suggested doing it the night before.”
The tour operates on Friday from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM and departs from the 200 block of E. Mulberry. There are seven locations along the route where individuals can learn about the former black business district, razed in the 1930s after a riot that led to the lynching of local farm hand George Hughes and the burning of the Grayson County Courthouse.
“History is important in and of itself,” Jackson said. “When you look back in history and see the greatness of what people once did and the great opportunities they had… the great things they once built, it can inspire you to do it again.” Sometimes people think they came from nothing. We want to teach people that there were dynasties in Africa thousands of years before other societies came along. We come from these people. Without knowing this, you will only be left wondering back and forth. When you discover in your family that you have a great-uncle who was president of a large corporation, it can inspire the youth in the family to know they can do the same. We want to learn from the past. It is not forbidden to look back to look ahead. We want to sow seeds.”
Grayson United would like to make a small contribution to fathers attending Friday’s event. For fathers taking their children on the tour, Grayson United will be entering a prize draw for gift cards donated to the organization by local businesses.
There will be seven locations along the tour route.
“William Durham, the civil rights attorney who worked with Thurgood Marshall, his house is still standing,” Jackson said. “He was here in 1930. He studied with Thurgood Marshall on the Brown V. Board of Education decision here in Sherman, Texas.
“We will go over there and stop in front of this house. I used to play in this area as a kid. Recently I walked over and touched the bricks on this house. It was an inspiration to me.”
Also as a nod to the past, this year’s celebration will return to a place to remember. Saturday’s festival takes place on East Street in MLK Park from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
There will be food and vendors, a car show, snow cones and entertainment.
“Saturday is going to be good old fun,” Jackson said. “We have horse trainers who raise horses. Horses play a big part in Juneteenth. We will have a narrator come and tell the story of the black cowboys. A lot of people don’t know about it. Our role in the Buffalo Soldiers and the different things we’ve done. We will have a bouncy castle, a gaming truck that kids can get in and play all day. We will have water events. We will have 3v3 basketball tournaments.”
Also, Saturday’s event will include a presentation on gun violence presented by a gun violence survivor and a special award will be given to a mother from the local community.