Sheriff’s Deputy Travis Stevens was in the Jackson County Courthouse on June 6 during the peaceful protest just in case things took a turn for the worse.
Stevens was there with other deputies and police officers, and he thought to himself, “There just has to be a better way to go out and communicate and talk with people.”
Stevens hosted a unity picnic on Friday, June 19, which is also Juneteenth, at Carver Park in Scottsboro.
“I thought about my own life and the things I appreciate and love. I enjoy fellowship. I enjoy eating, and I enjoy mixing the two together,” said Stevens. “What better way to do that than to come up here and share some barbeque with people, share the spirit of the Lord and try to start the healing process that way.”
Stevens said if people could all get together and sit down with one another, they would all realize that they are all just people.
“From the protesters to the police officers to the persons concerned about what’s going on in our nation, were all just people. We all have the same basic needs and desires. If we just get together, we’ll realize that we have a lot more in common than we thought,” said Stevens.
Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center Director Shelia Washington was at the picnic, and she said it was great to see a police officer plan a picnic for the community.
“To see officers come out at such a time of despair and unrest, to want to be a part of the community, it says a lot about them. It says every police officer is not a bad person. For them to furnish food for the whole community is just wonderful, especially on Juneteenth,” said Washington.
Washington said the importance of Juneteenth is something to celebrate, and with the picnic, it was an extra celebration. Washington wanted to thank Stevens, Center Point Baptist Church and their pastor, David Moorman, pastors of the community and everyone else that was a part of the unity picnic.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official Jan. 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.