This year’s celebration honored Willie O. Brown Sr., who died in December 2012. Brown was a well respected resident of Refugio who was extremely community minded.
Mayor Joey Heard welcomed all who were in attendance at the celebration and complimented Brown.
The Angelic Gospel Mass Choir sang two songs, including “Lord I’m Grateful.”
Following the choir, Patty Lewis read a poem titled “Freedom” that followed the plight of the black man, striving to be free.
Then guest soloist Larry Griggs of Houston provided a moving segment of the celebration.
“It’s good to be back home again,” he said.
He sang “Your Grace and Mercy ... brought me through....”
Griggs said he is living testimony of God’s mercy.
“Four years ago, they gave me up for dead. My heart failed and everything. The Lord saved me,” he said.
He sang “It’s Your Season to be Blessed,” as a follow-up.
Linda Madkins then introduced the guest speaker, her son: Elder Jerry Madkins.
She noted that her son never missed a day in school K-12 in Refugio. He began preaching in 1995 and was ordained in 2005.
He is now at the Restoration Deliverance Church in Atlanta, Ga.
Before Jerry Madkins spoke, Herman Boone, of Dallas, sang “Walk With Me, Lord” a cappella. Boone is Linda Madkins son-in-law.
Jerry Madkins talked about freedom, not just the freedom provided by the Emancipation Proclamation (also known as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day and Juneteenth).
Madkins quoted John 8:36 – If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
He said the thought then is “You are free. Tell a neighbor you are free.”
He said President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, and it made it down South in 1865 to tell the slaves, “By the way, you are free.”
“It was a piece of paper that gave us the ability to be free – 2,000 years ago, Jesus set us free,” Madkins said.
“God gave you the ability to be free regardless of the Emancipation Proclamation,” he added.
“If you are free in your mind, your heart, you can be free anywhere you go,” he said.
He called people’s attitude who say, “can’t do,” negativism.
“It’s no good,” he said.
He said people are creative beings.
“What happens when we come together – the banner of one thing: the blood of Jesus,” he said with a voice rising in a crescendo.
“When you acknowledge Him, you can be free. That’s what Juneteeth is all about: freedom.”
Vice president of the Juneteenth Committee, Marjorie Shaw, thanked all who came to the celebration.
“We’re blessed to have you,” she said.
She announced that the Barefield Learning Center would be getting an historical marker.
“It’s come through. We will have a dedication next Juneteenth,” she said.
A blessing of the food was given by the Rev. Riddley Rich Jr. followed by a barbecue lunch.
Other activities included a silent auction, storytelling, cake walk, adult bingo, pickle eating contest and a watermelon eating contest..
Music was provided by Cliff Smith.