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Juneteenth events conclude on holiday with community fun day

Posted on June 20, 2023


A weekend of Juneteenth activities came to a climax and a conclusion on Monday – the day of the holiday – with a community day that started in the morning and continued into to the afternoon at the Murphy Arts District Amphitheater and Playscape.

Monday’s event made full use of MAD’s outdoor facilities, featuring grilling courtesy of El Dorado Lodge 151, kickball, bounce house slides and more.

Organized by a group of local residents including former El Dorado Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer, the weekend also included a rally downtown on Friday, a concert featuring The

Front Cover at the Union County Fairgrounds Saturday night, a program at the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium Sunday night along with the community event on Monday.

Smith-Creer said the weekend came together successfully thanks to numerous local individuals, organizations and businesses pitching in to help out.

“We wanted it to be very inclusive and diverse. We know that Juneteenth is an African-American freedom holiday, but we’re free to be together. Everybody that we asked to do something chipped in and made it happen,” she said.

The winners of a Juneteenth poster contest sponsored by Main Street El Dorado were also announced live during a Noalmark broadcast from the event on Monday. The top finishers were Ramya Miller, honorable mention; Reshonda Hardiman, third place; Jakayla Morgan, second place and honorable mention people’s choice; and Upward Bound represented by Tavyn Dixon, Tionna Hicks and Nadalee Pumphrey, first place and people’s choice.

The winners all received trophies and ribbons for their achievement.

One group intimately involved with the weekend’s activities was Upward Bound, a federally-funded program for high school students through South Arkansas College.

“We do provide cultural activities for our students for social engagement, so we always participate in activities in El Dorado… We also learn about the Juneteenth, and things like Black Wall Street [that was in] Tulsa, OK, so this is just something outside of what they’re learning in the classroom daily,” said Upward Bound director Kelsey Jackson.

Jackson said Upward Bound also took first in last year’s poster contest, so she encouraged students to try to match that win.

“We had a lot of students actually participate. Some were really shy but we encouraged them to enter and they did so well,” Jackson said.

UB students are currently participating in the Summer Academy six-week program, which involves classroom engagement four days a week and afternoon activities such as basketball.

Sunday’s event at the El Dorado Auditorium was essentially an open mic for local performers to showcase their talents.

Performers included singers Carmelo Brown, Boomer Hill and Blacc Lyriqq, rappers Jonathan Woffard aka J2W and Darnell Johnson and mother/daughter dance duo Tasha and Zyon Boone along with several others.

Smith-Creer credited fellow organizer Shemekia Morgan with encouraging the group to spread the celebrations over an entire weekend rather than one day. They will soon begin planning, she said, to make next year’s Juneteenth celebrations even better.

“We’re going to come back together a few days from today, get a little rest, and figure out next year. Because this year tops last year in a major way,” she said.