Fort Worth

Opal Lee, ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth,' marches in Fort Worth at 96

Opal Lee's annual walk is Monday, June 19 in East Fort Worth

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Fort Worth is hosting Opal Lee’s annual Walk for Freedom on Monday, and the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” said she’s not slowing down anytime soon.

“I’m not going to sit in a rocker and wait for the Lord to call me. He’s going to have to catch me,” Lee said Friday.

The annual walk led by Lee is 2.5 miles long, representing the 2.5 years it took for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach enslaved people in Texas. Lee, 96, spent decades advocating for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday.

In 2021, Lee’s yearslong mission was complete.

“My grandparents, my mother…if they had something that was important, something they believed in…nothing stopped them. Come hell or high water. So, maybe I got a little bit of that DNA,” she said Friday. “I’m asking young people, make yourselves a committee of one to change somebody’s mind.”

Over the years, the walk through East Fort Worth has grown larger, both in size and overall meaning.

"This has been a long time coming," Tawndala Tindele said as she stood on her front porch waiting for the walk to go by her house. "This is the day that we are free and I want people to acknowledge it and start celebrating that we have this day."

Tindele was excited to see Lee.

“I think I’ve been talking to lots of people, and I hope they’ve heard what I said. That we have to work together to get rid of the disparities in our country, and we do have disparities. The joblessness. Homelessness. The health plans of health care some people can get and others can’t. Climate change,” Lee said. “It’s about freedom. Freedom for everybody. We don’t want people to think that Juneteenth is a Texas thing or a Black thing. It’s freedom.”

"The heat does not compare to what we had to go through to get here," Rickey Lowe said. "If Opal can be out here, we all should be out here to support her."

Lisa Baker grew up in Lee's neighborhood and spent her life going to the same church, Baker Chapel AME. She said Lee and her grandparents instilled her with important values.

"What is right for all people, not just what is right for Black people or Hispanics, but what is right for all people," Baker said. "We all came to the same land to be treated justly and that has been the message and will continue to be the message."

That message will be carried on for generations.

On Friday, Lee was the guest of honor at an event rededicating Fort Worth’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Heritage Trail marker. She was joined by longtime supporters of her movement, including Tarrant County Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Brooks.

“Freedom must be nurtured, guarded, and protected,” Brooks said, referring to the importance of Juneteenth.

Lee said she will continue to lead the walk in Fort Worth on June 19 every year for as long as she can.

“I want them to know the history – good, bad, and indifferent – and be sure it doesn’t happen again,” she said. “I want the people to realize that working together, different nationalities, different ethnic groups, that we can achieve so much. And quickly.”

"We do it by instilling it with our daughter and other friends," Joyt Gray said. "That carries it on, OK? And that keeps the movement going."

If you cannot join in person on June 19, watch the LIVE broadcast at 11 a.m. on NBC 5 and on all of our streaming platforms. Go to for viewing details.

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