Shontal Phillips saw the Miss Juneteenth Pageant as an opportunity to share a part of her heritage.
“It shows the importance of our culture, where we come from, how far we’ve come and what we can do,” said Phillips, “and it shows our value as African-Americans.”
Saturday’s pageant was one of several events recognizing Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865, a Union army general transmitted news of the Emancipation Proclamation to the residents of Galveston, Texas, even though the order had been issued two-and-a-half years earlier ..
Miss Juneteenth Pageant
Contestants from high schools across Topeka competed for the title of Juneteenth queen.
Sa’niia Davis, of Shawnee Heights; Karla Hysten, of Topeka High; Choize Hysten, of Topeka High; Shontal Phillips, of Topeka West; Victoria Reed, of Highland Park; Haliyah Sales, of Topeka West; Azalaiya Thompson, of Topeka High ; and Imani Thompson, of Topeka High, took part.
“After the end of the show, all of us came out into like a semicircle and then they opened the envelope and they announced the winner,” said Phillips, who just finished her junior year at Topeka West, “so I had no clue I was going to win. “
Phillips credited one of her dance teachers, Carol Williams, for getting her to participate.
“‘There’s this Juneteenth pageant and you guys should do it,” Phillips said Williams told her and fellow dance mates.” I was like,’OK, yeah, I’ll do it.’ I didn’t know at first, but it turned out to be pretty fun. I learned a lot. “
Phillips said many people don’t understand why Juneteenth is so important
“So that’s my goal,” she said, “to help them understand why our culture is just as important as any other culture and why this holiday is as important as any other holiday.”
Miss Juneteenth and her fellow contestants are building a float for Saturday’s Juneteenth parade.
Here is how the Juneteenth parade route
The parade will begin at 11 am at Williams Science and Fine Arts Magnet School. It will follow SE 17th Street west to Kansas Ave., where it will proceed north to SE 9th Street.
The parade will then turn east and follow 9th Street to Quincy Street where it will turn south, proceeding to 13th Street. Traveling east to SE Monroe Street, it will then turn south and pass the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park before working its way back to Williams school.
After the parade, the party begins.
At Cushinberry Park, a steppers contest between groups from the Kansas City area, Lawrence and Topeka will perform a complex synchronized dance that combines African folk dance with pop culture.
Midwest Elks Association will be giving out free barbecue dinners as well.
• From 6 to 8:30 pm Monday, such games as tug of war and balloon fights will be played at TFFJC Youth Celebration at the New Beginnings Baptist Church, 1329 SW 37th.
• From 6 to 9 pm Tuesday, a Taco Tuesday will also offer fun games, including a bouncy house, as well as free tacos at Betty Phillips Neighborhood Park 3303 SE Irvingham St.
• At 6 pm Wednesday, a Tulsa Oklahoma History Tour Discussion will discuss a recent trip made to Tulsa at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th Ave.
• At 6 pm Thursday, essay contest winners will be announced at the Annual Essay Contest Banquet at New Mount Zion, 2801 SE Indiana Ave.
• From 5 to 9 30 pm Friday, a mini concert featuring SJ Haizin will be at Hillcrest Community Center, 1800 SE 21st St.
• From noon to 10 pm Saturday, the Juneteenth Celebration will be at Hillcrest Community Center.
• At 3 pm Sunday, the series of events will finish with a Juneteenth Gospel Extravaganza at St. John’s AME, 701 SW Topeka, Blvd.
Topeka Family and Friends Juneteenth Celebration has been bringing events to celebrate the holiday since 2013. The organization brings together the Topeka community to celebrate the emancipation proclamation. It also focuses on education and helping people in need.
The organization’s director, Norma Avery, explained the need for such events.
“We have to tell story that the Fourth of July is not our holiday, Avery said.” June 19 is, because on July the Fourth, we were not free. Not when it first got started.
“So we recognize Fourth of July, and we celebrate it because we’re all Americans. And it’s a freedom day also, but our holiday is June 19. That is our Freedom Day.”
Catheryn Hrenchir is a feature writer for The Topeka-Capital Journal. She can be reached at chrenchir.gannett.com or (785) 817-638.