African Heritage Outreach, Community, Interfaith, Juneteenth

Friendship Fuels Dallas Juneteenth Celebration

On June 16, 2016, Pastor Karen Hollie hosted a Juneteenth celebration at Lifeway Church. Two participants, not members of her congregation, stopped by for the food and fun. One was David Patterson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the other, Marzuq Al Jaami, was active in the nearby Islamic community. Those three strangers became fast friends and since 2017 have celebrated Juneteenth in a strong partnership.

The outline of the event comes from traditions strong in the African American culture. The meal is a cook-out with hamburgers, hot dogs, or barbeque. But that’s not the symbolic element. The prominent color must be red: watermelon, Big Red soda (which originated in Texas), and red velvet cake are common. Dr. Hollie explains that these represent the bloodshed and suffering of generations of enslaved people.

Another tradition involves a simple sugar cookie with family-inspired additions. Called teacakes, the recipes vary but often have a hint of nutmeg, perhaps some lemon zest, but always vanilla. The basic principle was availability, beginning in Southern kitchens before Emancipation. Many families still keep their recipes secret. Consider this one, similar to Dr. Hollie’s: Cream 1-3/4 cups of sugar with 1 cup of butter. Add two large eggs and one teaspoon of vanilla. Blend well. Add 3 cups of flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon nutmeg. Mix again, then knead a few times on a floured surface. Roll out ¼ inch thick, and cut with desired cutter. Bake at 325 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Last year, women from the three congregations met for the first time to learn how to bake these little delicacies. A similar event this year adds members of the local Baha’i’ group as well, all using Dr. Hollie’s family recipe.

Music is another part of the commemoration. For several years, Lifeway member Dee Morales has sung her acapella version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) wrote this poem for a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1900; his brother, John Rosamond Johnson later set it to music. The LDS hymnal provides another powerful message of unity at the event: “I Am a Child of God.”

Since June 17, 2021, Juneteenth is no longer “a Texas thing.” With the establishment of the national holiday—an effort led by Opal Lee of Fort Worth—it is indeed a time to lift every voice not just in Dallas but throughout the country.

Mary Ann Taylor, Communication Director

Mary Ann Taylor is communications director for the Dallas Texas Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Duncanville.