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As Juneteenth celebrations are scheduled to take place across America this weekend, The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Tulsa’s own Maybelle Wallace about the holiday which she’s helped elevate in the Greenwood community. At 92 years of age, her earliest memories of celebrating Juneteenth were nearly a century ago.
“When I was a little girl, we had a park called Berry’s Park. Over the years it’s changed from Berry’s Park to Lincoln’s Park and now it’s Lacy Park. But when I was 9 or 10 years old, we would go to Berry’s Park and eat watermelon and they’d have fish fries and fun for the children.”
Wallace was born in Tulsa, she lived adjacent from Greenwood on East Latimer Place’s 500 Block; she credits the Tulsa community for always coming out and showing love ever since she was a child.
Later in 1982, Wallace decided the keep the tradition alive while expanding on it as well. She helped organize the Greenwood Arts Jubilee “to commemorate our Emancipation Proclamation holiday.” She states, “It was very exciting because everything on Greenwood to Archer St. was affected by urban renewal and because of the newly built highway, a lot of our businesses were being torn down and desolate with boarded up building, it was very messy.”
Wallace continued, “the Juneteenth celebration was our independence day for Black people. I’m very happy that now it’s a national holiday.”
With increased Juneteenth awareness in the US, certain missteps have already been made, yet, Wallace contends that opening the tent for more to learn and celebrate Black liberation is a good thing. When speaking on America’s newfound recognition of Juneteenth, she replied, “This is something that should’ve been taught in schools long before.”
As a lifelong Tulsa resident whose lived much of what today’s generation reads about, Wallace says the proudest moment of her life, as a Black woman, was witnessing the election of President Obama. “I was very happy that we had a Black President. And when he was elected for a second term, I was even happier.”
After bringing so many people in the Tulsa community joy and happiness over the years, Wallace now looks forward “to the youth getting together and having a good time and having fun, I also like to see different nationalities present celebrating a part of our heritage.”
When I was a kid and even after I had children of my own, we used to have one day – June 19th. I would take my kids to Lakeview Park in Tulsa and they had ferris wheels and various concessions and things for the kids to do. It was ran by White people, once a year, they would let us come there and celebrate Juneteenth and that was a big deal then. Now there’s so much to do for everyone who comes to celebrate our Emancipation.”