Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee joins community in special Juneteenth service at historic church

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Monday, June 20, 2022
Officials join community in Juneteenth service at historic church
The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Fourth Ward was one of many in the Greater Houston area to commemorate the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A special Sunday service at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Fourth Ward was one of many in the Greater Houston area to commemorate the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who is known as the author of the Juneteenth federal holiday, returned to the historic building to celebrate with the community.

"It is a time for reflection and to see what we have been through as a race of people," said Dr. James Burton, Chairman of the Board of Deacons at the church. "Just like the Jews have their Passover and things of that nature. This is our time. This is our Passover, when we were freed and when we left."

"It means a lot. It means acknowledgment because our theme this year was 157 years of faith and as Black people, we've had to have a lot of faith in God, a lot of prayers, and a lot of sweat in the words to basically get through everything that we've gone through," said Percival Gibbs, coordinator of the Miss Juneteenth Pageant.

On June 19, 1865, the last group of formerly enslaved people learned of their emancipation in Galveston, Texas. The first Juneteenth celebration was held a year after that. The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church carries a lot of historic significance, not just as the city's first African American Baptist church, but where members came together in 1882 to purchase 10 acres of land now known as Emancipation Park. It served as a location for the Black community to celebrate Juneteenth.

Jackson Lee has spent nearly a decade alongside other leaders fighting to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Seeing her vision brought to life last year, she shared why she was so passionate about bringing more awareness and education to the country's history with slavery.

"I did it out of passion and compassion. It was one of the original sins. It was brutal and it just came to me that throughout history, as a little girl growing up, no one taught me about slave history. No one taught me about the brutality of slavery," said Jackson Lee. "Juneteenth should be a day of doing and knowing. It should be a day of repair and healing."

Advocates say this is only one step forward in the work needed for racial equity and social justice. Lee hopes to see more unity and bipartisan efforts in addressing issues facing our Black communities.

"There are still stark disparities in the African American community. I know a lot of people see people doing well. They have work colleagues. But if you look, there are inequities in education. the criminal justice system, healthcare," she said. "The constitution says that they were organized to create a more perfect union. We keep trying to do that. Slaves were not even considered people when that was written. I think we can do so much better if we have knowledge and truth."

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See more coverage on Houston celebrating Juneteenth.