Hungry? How about a trip back to the Juneteenth/June Dinner festival and parade in Wilmar, Arkansas for some BBQ, hot tamales, and pound cake. I've included an interview and photos of all things related to food from the 2006 celebration.
During the event, food vendors such as Divalicious Fixings and More, Margo’s’ Catfish, The Catfish Hut-Finger Licking Good, A & W Concessions, Hot Tamales, Simply the Best B & B, AAU Boys Basketball fundraisers, and Revival Center Church of God of Christ fundraisers for youth department, were each selling food that included barbeque goat/pork/beef sandwiches, ribs, turkey legs, catfish, chicken, police sausages, hotdogs, chips, baked beans, fried green tomatoes, tamales, pickles, funnel cake, and/or soda/water. Families and social groups also came prepared with their food and drinks and set up areas with grills, smokers, coolers, tables, and chairs.
Listen to the interview with Ms. Joyce Steen about her experiences with Juneteenth / June Dinner (unedited video). She talks about her life, family, community, food, and work.
While listening to the interview I was thinking about what guided those questions. At that time, I wasn’t for sure what I needed to know except that I liked knowing why people do what they do. I was there to learn about festival-related things. On an etiquette level, I know that I was always worried. Why do I have the right to ask anything, what if it’s too emotional or something intrusive, and do they have time for me. This is a festival and a person is busy with all sorts of personal things from connecting with people, making money, preparing food, etc. and here they are being generous to me.
I was interested in learning more about Ms. Joyce's circumstances in her life, raising eight kids, and all the successes of her kids, such as her dietician daughter's career. But then I never know how much time I have to talk with someone. Operating a camera, eating, thinking, worrying, hearing with background noises, and then remembering that I’m supposed to be a researcher too, is all so complicated. I know I might not ask a good question or even respond appropriately. I might even lead the conversation in all sorts of directions and not learn anything about the festival, but then maybe that tangent is relevant. It feels more natural without camera equipment, but then I do forget things so I'm appreciative of these moments when I videotaped Ms. Joyce, and she took the time to talk with me and feed me.
Wilmar is a small community in southeast Arkansas with a population of 500 plus. The town has held its annual June Dinner/Juneteenth for over 100 years. The event commemorates the abolition of slavery that occurred in Texas, Emancipation Day, June 19, 1865, years after Abraham Lincoln had issued an Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
The celebration began in Wilmar because it is thought that a former slave who originally lived in Wilmar returned from Texas brought this Galveston, Texas tradition of Juneteenth.
More discussion and interviews on the history of June Dinner is in my other essay HERE.