Racial Justice and Equity Committee to observe Juneteenth with prayer service

The Diocese of Belleville’s Racial Justice and Equity Committee will observe Juneteenth with a special prayer service at St. Augustine of Hippo Church, East St. Louis, at 2 p.m. Sunday June 13.

The prayer service is a way of observing this historical event and also recognizing the continuing struggle for equality and justice, organizers said.

The prayer service, composed by Bishop Ferd Cheri, OFM, is entitled “A Requiem for Black Children of God.” It recalls and prays for justice for the hundreds of black men and women who have, under questionable circumstances, lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement across our country in recent years, said Father Carroll Mizicko, OFM, pastor of St. Augustine of Hippo parish.

The service will be live-streamed on St. Augustine’s Facebook page. If you would like to attend, call the church office at 618-274-0655 to reserve a place.

Juneteenth, a contraction of June and nineteenth, is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved Americans. It was on June 19, 1865, that the announcement was made by Union Army General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, signed Sept. 22, 1962, had officially outlawed slavery in Texas and the states in rebellion against the Union, almost two and a half years earlier. Enforcement of the Proclamation generally relied on the advance of the Union troops as the American Civil War ended. Enforcement in Texas had been slow and inconsistent before Granger’s announcement.

Celebrations date to 1866, at first involving church-centered community gatherings in Texas. They spread across the South in the 1920s and 30s. In the 21st Century, today Juneteenth is celebrated in many cities across the country.