AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — “All of us done came together, and, new people, new ideas, hey, the sky’s the limit now. But we want the kids to know that somebody out here that we love y’all. We want the kids to know that, we love you, someone’s out here for you.”
That was the message behind the Coming Together Celebration for Juneteenth event at Wonderland Park today. Event organizer Chris Brackens said the event, which went on from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., served to bring the communities of North Heights, Hamlet and San Jacinto together. Although kids from those communities were the main focus of the event, there was something for everyone.
“This is for the less fortunate, as well as the fortunate,” he said. “I may have had the vision, but we all put it together. God showed up, now it’s time for us to show out.”
Kids drove bumper cars, let the wind blow through their hair on roller coasters, hopped on the pirate ship, and of course, cooled off on water rides. As much fun as kids and their parents/guardians had at the amusement park, Community Leader and Educator Kami Collins, said after a year of division and separation largely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s nice to be able to come together again.
“It means that we’re able to come together finally because we have been so separated, we’ve not been able to celebrate and play together and be together,” Collins said. “I’ve seen it affect our kids, I’ve seen how it can cause some social and emotional trauma. And so this is a way to let that go and let them be kids again. Not worry about all the political things, not worry about school. They’re just here having fun and when you see that, you see that sparkle in their eyes, it makes me happy.”
This was the first year for the event, which was made possible, organizers said, by several companies, community leaders and volunteers working together. Community leaders secured around 300 Wonderland tickets. Although the event was exclusive, the mission was formed on inclusion and community.
“Bringing everyone together, everyone’s on the same page, they understand why this is so important,” Collins said. “Why we need to celebrate Juneteenth, because everyone was able to be free. Now we can start working towards what we call the American Dream.”
The event, which was free for kids and their parents/guardians, kicked off an entire weekend of events celebrating Juneteenth, when slaves in Galveston found out two years later, on June 19, 1865, that slavery was over.
On Saturday, June 19, there will be the Juneteenth Parade on North Hughes Street, beginning at 10 a.m. Immediately after the parade, Coming Together and several other community groups will meet at Bones Hooks Park for a neighborhood get together. There will be over 40 food vendors in the park for the event, which is free and open to the public. On Sunday, June 20, several Amarillo churches will meet at Bones Hooks Park from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., for a Community Outdoor Worship Service.
In addition to all of the celebrations and events going on, Brackens said community leaders have come together asking for a neighborhood cease fire, to give Amarillo Police a better chance at solving open homicide cases, and ultimately, help victims’ families heal and move forward.
“The cease fire is to help Amarillo Police Department get some of these families some closure. Put your guns down,” he said. “Not everyone’s going to do it, but those that are going to do it, because if you’re shooting, you’re having all of these shootings and killings, then the kids don’t get to enjoy themselves, and the parents never get closure. And if someone wants to retaliate, how can the police solve the case?”
Community, inclusion and moving forward. Part of what Juneteenth is all about.