Living Democracy

Elba celebrates their first Juneteenth

It was a rainy day in Elba, but the Mulberry Heights Coalition group persevered to host the opening ceremony of a Juneteenth celebration at the old high school grounds at Gaines Memorial Park, in the Mulberry Heights community, for the first time in Elba.

The Juneteenth celebration corresponds with the newly established federal holiday in the United States that commemorates the day the last remaining enslaved people in the nation, in Galveston, Texas, received word of the federal orders in President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

For Elba, this local celebration is historic and momentous, especially for the African American population residing in the city. Organizers noted that it allowed local residents to celebrate the new national holiday and highlighted what Elba has to offer multiculturally.

Karizmah Yelverton-Magwood, secretary of the Mulberry Heights Coalition, explained that this event was envisioned five years ago and that she is overwhelmed to see the results of their work in 2021. She added that this event was important to highlight the end of slavery.

She added that there was an ex-slave, Charlie Porter, commonly known as Uncle Charlie, who spent his entire life in Elba until he died at 121 years old in 1976.

“Those are the things I want to highlight so that the generation that’s coming up now will understand that there’s history here. These are stories that I want to continue to tell,” she said.

Despite it being a rainy day for the first celebration, which prevented some planned activities, the coalition opted to have a small ceremony to recognize the day officially and thank the community and sponsors for their support.

Everyone in Coffee County was invited to the public event. Yelverton-Magwood said that it is norm for Elbans to gather on occasions such as this, as it shows the strength of unity and the city in general. The Juneteenth celebration was just another form of showing the bond connecting residents of the community.

“It’s not just about Juneteenth. It’s about coming together, diversity. We come together for everything. We come together for football, floods, and funerals. Let’s make Elba able again,” she said.

One highlight of the celebration was the crowning of Miss Juneteenth 2021, Jasmine Magwood, a high school senior and community member at Mulberry Heights. The Miss Juneteenth contest took the form of a non-traditional pageant competition, recognizing an outstanding individual from the community who met all the requirements of the competition and wrote an award-winning essay based on one of the topics provided by the selection committee.

By Oquendo Bernard
Last Updated: June 21, 2021