Juneteenth 2022

Masons representing Kansas and Missouri unveil the Liberty Legacy Memorial Saturday, June 18.

LIBERTY — The Clay County Juneteenth two-day celebration proved to be a mix of joy and ceremony.

Before the solemnity of the Liberty Legacy Memorial unveiling Saturday, June 18, the celebration began with a community parade and the unveiling of the colorful Sankofa bird sculpture in front of Garrison School Cultural Center.

Parade & Sankofa

bird sculpture

According to organizers with Clay County African American Legacy, Inc., the parade route proved symbolic as Main Street in Liberty is normally a one-way street going south. The decision to move the parade in the opposite direction mirrored those moving north from enslavement following the Emancipation Proclamation.

The parade ended at Garrison School Cultural Center Friday, June 17. A brief celebration took place where area artist Rodney “Lucky” Easterwood and AJ Byrd, CCAAL president, unveiled a Sankofa bird sculpture that sits near the stairs on the south side of the building.

Author and historian Archie Williams explained this bird comes from the Akan people of Ghana. The bird is depicted flying forward with its head turned backward. The egg in its mouth represents “gems of wisdom gathered from the past.”

Legacy Memorial unveiling

Under the bright sun early Saturday, a crowd gathered in Fairview Cemetery to honor the unveiling of the Liberty Legacy Memorial, which features more than 750 names of African Americans buried in mostly unmarked graves. Members of Missouri’s African American Masons and Eastern Stars as well as several from Kansas came to honor those of the past.

Acting Worshipful Master Mario Gaitan and a small group of Masons offered funeral rites.

“Some of those buried here were known and some were known only to God,” he said. “In the grave, all ranks are done away.”

Along with the Masons unveiling the granite piece with the engraved names, those who led the efforts, the Liberty Legacy Committee, were honored.

One piece of news during the day came from state Rep. Mark Ellebracht, a Democrat who represents part of Liberty in the Missouri House.

He announced a portion of Missouri Highway 291 from Northeast Cookingham Drive to Kansas Street will be designated “Sam C. Houston Memorial Highway.” Houston was the first African American to win election to Liberty City Council.

His council service began in April 1975, and Houston represented Liberty’s First Ward for 18 years.

Afternoon entertainment

After the formal ceremony, Juneteenth continued with a barbecue, dance, poetry reading, storytelling and performance from a band.

Dancers from the Conservatory of Dance Education as well as Step Movement performed.

The poet 337 from Recipe Poetry Guild offered a variety of older and contemporary poems including works from Langston Hughes.

Everster Roper told stories that have roots in Africa. The Liberty North drum line performed as did Martika Daniels, a one-woman stunt show performer. JJ & the Old School Band closed out the two-day event.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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