Juneteenth walk held in Gatesville
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Dozens of people gathered to march at the First Baptist Church in Gatesville Friday morning, to honor Juneteenth but also to come together as a community.
The march began at the church on Main Street, and participants made their way down to the Coryell County Courthouse, where Claude Williams shared a message of unity with the crowd. After his speech, the crowd made one more lap around the courthouse and walked back to the church.
Lifelong Gatesville resident Calvin Ford says he didn’t come up with the idea for the march, but he did reach out to people and spread the word and made sure it went off without a hitch.
“We wanted it to be not a protest but just something peaceful, especially for the fact that it is Juneteenth, and it’s a significant day,” said Ford.
Juneteenth represents the day that slaves in Texas were freed. Union soldiers, led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston on June 19, 1865 with news that the war had ended, a full two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863.
With the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee in April 1865, the Union troops had enough influence to enforce the General Order Number 3, which read “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
June 19 is also Ford’s birthday, he said.
Ford said he has had a lot of deep discussions with people about race.
“It’s interesting because actually, the majority of my friends are Caucasian, and some of them don’t even understand,” Ford said.
Growing up, one of his friend’s father use the n-word against Ford and said Ford was not allowed to stay the night because they thought he would steal simply due to the color of his skin.
“I’m 52 years old today, never drank, never smoked, never did any drugs, don’t even have a criminal history, had no kids out of wedlock, try to do everything right, try to be a model citizen to support and help do a lot of things for the community because I love the community,” Ford said. “I love helping people, and so I just wanted to get everybody together to let them know that there are good African-American people.”
Ford said he believes in Black Lives Matter and also in All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.
“I just felt like it was very important to do that march,” Ford said. “Just like when I feel that people are treated unfairly, you better know that I’m going to speak up.”
Also at Friday’s march was Coryell County Judge Roger Miller, who is friends with the Ford family.
“I know in the grand scheme of things, race relations need to be better all across the board,” Miller said.
Miller added that he didn’t consider it a protest but rather a march of celebration and a march of awareness.
Some of the signs carried by marchers read “Unity in the Community.”
“Well, you can’t really say it better than that because that has nothing to do with race,” Miller said. “That has to do with people being generally nice to one another and respecting, being respectful of one another and having value of life. We’re losing the concept of value of life.”
Miller said he was pleased at the turnout and at the different backgrounds of people who showed up.
He added that he told the organizers from day one he would absolutely be participating.
“Because to me, it’s more about the unifying than pointing fingers,” Miller said. “I think we’ve got to get past that.”
Claude Williams was the guest speaker and is another resident of Gatesville.
“I believe the most significant thing about today is that based on where we come from and where we are now, it kind of saddens me that it actually took 451 years for the violence and stuff to continue happening for people to want to take notice to it and now everybody wants to make change,” Williams said. ““This is not treatment that we get every blue moon. This is treatment that people of color suffer on a daily basis. It may not be as the killing by a police officer but to be going into a store and watched, thinking you’re going to take stuff from them or not given jobs when you know you’re qualified.”
Williams shared that he has struggled to find a job in his field in Gatesville.
“It could be because of the economy, I don’t know, but I can’t help but sometimes wonder if it’s because of the color of my skin,” Williams said.
Williams said that it will take people coming together to solve the problem. He added that he was moved by the size of the crowd and the different types of people in the crowd- white, black, young and old.
“It gave me a better feeling to deliver the speech that there was such diversity in that crowd, and I was hoping for that too because I wanted hopefully the word to get out that that’s not why we’re marching,” Williams said. “We’re not marching to create havoc or all this craziness that others might think. We’re marching for peace. We’re marching because it’s our constitutional right to march.”