juneteenth

Organizers of next week’s second annual Mesquite Juneteenth Celebration are excited and expecting the event to make a more sizable splash than last year’s inaugural affair.

Jazmine Riley, secretary for the Mesquite Tri East NAACP, said the number of businesses that have registered for the event has increased by more than 40 percent from last year.

“This year is going to be so much bigger and better,” Riley said. “Last year we showcased about 35 small black-owned businesses that consisted of food, handmade items, professional services and more. This year we will have more than 50 vendors total.”

Among the vendors who’ll be participating will be booths selling handmade items such as natural soaps, fragrances, jewelry, custom T-shirts as well as professional services and more. Riley said there would also be food trucks on site.

But Riley said vendors won’t be the only draw.

“In addition [to the vendors], we'll be providing an entertainment hour of performances from local dance teams, an African dancer and singers,” she said.

Slated to entertain the crowd on hand are DJ Mark B, local blues singer Burnett Watson, Dare to Dance Training and Performance, African dancer Anquanette Moore and up-and-coming Mesquite artist Mira Claiborne, who will be performing her new single "Butterflies."

Another positive change, Riley said, is that the entire parking lot will be closed off for the event to accommodate the stage and children’s attractions such as bounce houses and games.

Riley said organizers are enthusiastic about growing the Juneteenth Celebration into an annual event on par with other popular community functions.

“This event has been received very well in our opinion,” she said. “I am not sure why there hasn't been Juneteenth celebrations previously but there is one now and we are excited. We are hoping that more of the Mesquite community will come out to celebrate this citywide event the way the community celebrates and supports the Cinco de Mayo Festival or Christmas in the Park. This event is for everyone of all colors, all ages and all walks of life.”

But organizers hope the entertainment, food, fun and local small business vendors deliver something with a little more lasting social impact.

“We are hoping that all can come together at this event to celebrate the purpose of Juneteenth,” Riley said. “We are hopeful that people of other nationalities and races will leave with more understanding and appreciation for black culture and what it means to the black community.”

Riley said crowd size is another big change expected for this year’s event. The initial Mesquite Juneteenth Celebration in 2020 drew between 400 and 500 people, Riley said, and there are high hopes that this second time around of tripling that number.

The second annual Mesquite Juneteenth Celebration is set for June 19 in the parking lot of the Travis Williams Softball Complex at 1005 New Market Rd. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is free to the public. The title sponsors are Kroger and the City of Mesquite.

Kent Miller is a Mesquite native with three decades of newspaper experience. His passion for community journalism is reflected in his work on Make It Mesquite. He also produces editorial content for the City of Mesquite through Pegasus Media Dallas.