Opal Lee Reflects, Prepares for Juneteenth Weekend Events

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On a mission to continue educating, Fort Worth’s Opal Lee will continue leading her annual “Walk for Freedom” as a tribute to Juneteenth.

Lee, 95, is described as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”. She is a retired teacher, counselor, and activist in the movement to make Juneteenth an official federal holiday, which included walking 1,400 miles from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., at 90 years old in 2016 to bring awareness.

On June 17, 2021, a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday was signed into law by President Joe Biden.

“I’ve been part of Juneteenth since I was knee-high to a duck,” Lee said Wednesday. “I’ve seen it as something that I truly had hoped I’d see come to fruition in my lifetime. It has. I’m so glad.”

Lee will lead the 2.5-mile walk from the Evans Avenue Plaza to the new Fort Worth City Hall on Saturday morning, with the distance symbolizing the two-and-a-half years it took for the enforcement of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to reach Texas.

“I am ecstatic. I just love all of the excitement and all of the young people I’m meeting,” she said. “I’m saying, 'Lord, make them realize that we’re one people. Make them realize that we’re brothers and sisters under the skin. Make them realize that we all bleed red blood, that we can do so much more together.' I just keep praying that the young people will understand that there’s still a job to do.”

As North Texas prepares for weekend-long events celebrating Juneteenth, advocate Opal Lee reflects on the holiday’s importance and has a message for today’s youth.

While Lee said history is still being written, the African American Museum of Dallas will host its 33rd Texas Black Invitational Rodeo as a chance to teach history.

“This helps to fill in a missing part of history,” Robert Edison, the museum's educational curator, said. “The way Western movies were created, contributions of African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans were often left out.”

The rodeo is on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Fair Park Coliseum as part of its tribute to Juneteenth.

Lee’s walk in Fort Worth will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“As long as people will listen, I’ll keep on walking. I’ll keep on talking because the young people must realize that they’re the ones to get us out of the quagmire that we’re in,” she said.

NBC 5 will livestream the two-hour Opal’s Walk for Freedom, produced by Unity Unlimited, Inc. as part of their Juneteenth Fort Worth month-long celebration, at NBCDFW.com and the NBC 5 DFW mobile app.

Juneteenth Events in Fort Worth on Sunday:

  • Sunday, June 19, 1-9 pm: Soul of Sycamore Festival at Sycamore Park, 2400 E. Vickery Blvd.
  • Sunday, June 19, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Juneteenth Jubilee, Texas Wesleyan University, 3100 E. Rosedale Ave.
  • Sunday, June 19, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., free admission all day to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, 3220 Botanic Garden Center Blvd.
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