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Service celebrates freedom from slavery


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The Clovis community will soon be witness to a nearly 150-year-old celebration.

With an extravaganza event set to take place at Potter Park on Saturday and another event at Legacy Life Family Church on Sunday, Clovis is set to mark Juneteenth — or the official end of slavery in the U.S. — this weekend.

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Selmus Price, a coordinator of the Sunday Juneteenth service at Legacy Life Family Church, is to keep alive the memory of the end to slavery in the United States.

The church's event will be 3 p.m. Sunday.

“The celebration is really to keep the memory of this part of our history alive, and be able to pass it on to our future generations,” said Selmus Price, who helped coordinate the Fourth Annual Juneteenth Celebration on Sunday.

Price, who also serves as chairman of the Clovis Cultural/Ethnic Affairs Committee and is president of the Clovis Branch of the NAACP, said the Juneteenth celebration “falls in line” with an ethnic fair he has been coordinating annually in Clovis for 23 years.

The objective of the ethnic fair, which will take place this year on July 19 at Hillcrest Park, is to “bring different cultures together to be able to share ... understand, and learn.

“By that same token,” Price said, “(the Juneteenth celebration) is not only extended to the African-American community, but to all ethnicities.”

The theme for the Fourth Annual Juneteenth Celebration on Sunday is “The Rise and Challenges of an Oppressed People.” The event is set to include:

• A tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers. These soldiers were members of African-American factions of the U.S. Army. The Buffalo Soldiers Society of New Mexico will be the featured guest during the Juneteenth event.

• A tribute to poet Maya Angelou, who died May 28 at the age of 86. The tribute will entail a brief historical presentation and the reading of her poem, “And Still I Rise.”

• The reading of a proclamation from Gov. Susana Martinez, in which she declares June 19, 2014 — the actual anniversary of the end of slavery — as “New Mexico Juneteenth Day.”

• A brief history behind the movie, “Twelve Years a Slave.”

• A representative from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church will give a presentation titled “On the Road to Sainthood: Leaders of African Descent.”

• Various musical selections by local artists.

• Healthcare and information exhibits, as well as refreshments, will be available following the main event.

Although Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official on Jan. 1, 1863, it was not until June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, declaring the Civil War had ended and the slaves were free.

Several possible reasons have been given for the two-and-a-half year delay in the delivery of the message.

According to the Juneteenth World Wide Celebration website, one such theory states a messenger sent to deliver the news of the Emancipation Proclamation was murdered en route to Texas.

Another theory is that the news was withheld so slave owners could reap one last cotton harvest.

Due to its emphasis on history, Price said Juneteenth is particularly important now, as he feels history is no longer an integral part of the education system’s curriculum.

“A lot of history is not in textbooks,” he noted.