​Juneteenth Event Planned

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Nestled in the midst of a well-to-do neighborhood in Missouri City, Texas, less than five minutes from Jasmine Baxter’s home, stands a tall, unassuming oak tree. Its branches that stretch out to reach the sky and its sprawling boughs of oak leaves look slightly out of place surrounded by gated communities.

But for those who know their Black history, the significance of the tree is great.

“It’s called the Freedom Tree, and underneath that tree is where the slaves [of Palmer Plantation] learned that they were free. There is a plaque on the tree that tells the story,” said Baxter, a Franklin County native.

The story goes that slaves from the Palmer Plantation gathered around the base of the great oak on June 19, 1865, and in the shade of its branches, the plantation’s white overseer delivered the news of their freedom. More than 150 years later, that date, known as Juneteenth, is commemorated with parades, picnics and cookouts and community discussions.

And this year, Winchester is joining in on the celebration. On Sunday, June 21, from 4–8 p.m. at the Old Cowan Road Neighborhood Park, residents and organizers with the newly-formed community advocacy group The CUSP for Change will celebrate Juneteenth with food, music, kids games, community conversations and messages from guest speakers.

“Things have been dark for the last few months, and in the midst of it all, we need something to celebrate. So much of our history and heritage have been erased, and the rest is narrowed down to one month and a couple of holidays. We’re all learning about it together, and we’re going to celebrate that. We’re going to celebrate the fight our ancestors went through for us to get here. This is about creating a platform of positivity for people to feel comfortable enough to share their experiences,” Baxter said.

Fellow organizer Terrance Martin said it is his hope the event provides a space for the community to reflect on the significance of the day as well as to look to the future.

“We are all in a moment of reflection right now as we stop to adjust to this new normal, and in the midst of all this, it’s important we challenge what we know,” he said. “Where did we get this resilience from? How did we get where we are today? This event is to learn about and acknowledge the past, but we are also going to celebrate because our ancestors deserve to be honored for standing strong,” he said.

Baxter said safety is the group’s first priority, and gloves, masks and sanitizer will be available at the event. There will also be security present.

The event is free, and all are welcome to attend. For more information about the event, contact Jasmine Baxter at <cuspforchange@gmail.com>.