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Opal Lee to Lead Caravan for Juneteenth Celebration

June 1,2020

See full Fort Worth Magazine article by Samantha Calimbahin here.

COVID-19 will not stop Juneteenth."

Participants chanted these words in front of the Lenora Rolla Heritage Center Museum on Monday during a ceremony kicking off Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the ending of slavery in the U.S. 

During the ceremony, Opal Lee — a longtime community activist known for her efforts to make Juneteenth a national holiday — announced that the COVID-19 pandemic won't deter her annual Juneteenth walk from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., which starts on June 19.  

She'll just be doing it a little differently. 

Rather than having participants walk alongside her as in previous years, Lee is asking Fort Worthians to follow behind her in their cars — a caravan that will travel from the Fort Worth Convention Center to the Will Rogers Memorial Center. The 93-year-old will then continue her journey to D.C., walking 2.5 miles every day in honor of the 2.5 years that it took for slaves in Texas to know that they were freed. 

"I'm not sitting here rocking until the Lord calls me home; He really is going to have to catch me," Lee said during the kickoff ceremony.

The purpose of Lee's walk is to gather 100,000 signatures for a petition she plans to bring to Congress, which calls for Juneteenth to become a national holiday. The Fort Worth event will be streamed live online, and according to a news release, 15 other cities that celebrate Juneteenth have committed to conducting their own caravans. 

"Fort Worth will be the center of it," said Dione Sims, executive director of Unity Unlimited, Inc., the group that produces Lee's annual Juneteenth celebrations.

The announcement comes exactly a week after the death of George Floyd and following a weekend of protests in downtown Fort Worth against racism and police brutality. In light of recent events, this year's Juneteenth carries an even greater significance, Sims said.

"Folks say, 'How can you call for unity at a time like this?' ... Juneteenth's going to take a hit because it's not what people are feeling right now," Sims said. "But it's what we need. COVID-19 will not stop Juneteenth, and neither will hatred and racism." 

More information about the caravan and other Juneteenth events can be found at Juneteenth FTW's website.

Location Mentioned: Fort Worth Convention Center