Church and community came together Saturday afternoon as Lovells Chapel Church of Pilot Mountain and Lovells Chapel International Ministries joined to host the first Juneteenth Celebration at the Lovells Chapel International Ministries Mount Airy campus.
According to information provided by organizers, Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union troops landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war had ended. Two and one-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, soldiers enforced the executive order that Texas acknowledge the order and release slaves.
On Jan. 1, 1980, Texas led the way for other states by declaring Juneteenth an official state holiday. Today, the celebration and its mission of promoting and cultivating knowledge and appreciation of African-American history and culture are quickly growing in popularity across the nation.
Saturday’s day-long event featured activities for every age while also raising funds for a planned family enrichment center at the location.
“We want to help our community be the best that it can be,” noted Pastor J.K. Best. “That will come by building individuals’ self-esteem and by meeting the needs of the families in our community. That will include spiritual, social, educational, financial and physical needs. We can do this by giving them the skills they need to envision and work toward their God-given potential. We want to empower them to break free of cycles of poverty.”
Entertainment included a puppet show, face painting and plenty of music. Guest vocalist performing throughout the day was Mildred East McKinney. Harold Johnson of Winston-Salem, and a Christian rapper known musically as Mr. BBH sharing his personal story of triumph over hardship while promoting his recently released debut effort, “Made 4 Blessing.”
An indoor art gallery featured displays from several local artists. Among these were the works of Sam “The Dot Man” McMillan. Born in 1926 in Robeson County, McMillan went on to live in Winston-Salem. He developed a following as a folk artist, best known for the dots he included in each work.
His work can be found in the African-American Museum in Dallas, Texas, as well as in art museums in Hickory and Robersonville. His paintings have been included in a Smithsonian exhibit featuring self-taught African American artists.
Other works in a room filled with exhibits included a display featuring Alphonso Tillman and a video featuring 14-year-old equestrian Marissa Hernandez-Thompson.
“We’re excited about what God is doing here,” Best said. “We know that God has placed us here to bless this community and we want to impact the city of Mount Airy one soul at a time. This is the beginning. We’re looking forward to making it an annual event and we’re going to start planning next year right away. Everyone is welcome and we’d like to see the entire city get involved, including our city officials.”