ALLEGHANY COUNTY, Va. – Many people are being educated about and then celebrating Juneteenth for the first time this year. In the Alleghany Highlands, a small group is bringing Hollywood to Southwest Virginia for a special Juneteenth event meant to not only uplift the community but forge change.
Juneteenth is a portmanteau of the words June and 19. Now as a federal holiday, it is also the confrontation of our painful past in an effort to build a healthier legacy for generations to come.
Like so many, Alleghany County, Clifton Forge and Covington are recognizing Juneteenth for the first time this year.
“I’m white. My husband is white. Our kids are white. I could live here happily for however many years and it could never affect my family, but I don’t want my kids going to school with kids who are having to deal with that stuff,” stated Alleghany CORE (Commission on Racial Equality) member Courtney Howard.
Alleghany CORE formed in 2020.
Howard is also spearheading a big event this weekend. Howard and CORE are hosting a special airing of The BlacKkKlansman inside Masonic Theater in downtown Clifton Forge with a question and answer session with the film’s writer David Rabinowitz.
“There is still stuff that needs to be worked on and changed today, and the film really facilitates a conversation about race and how people interact with one another,” said Howard.
The event is free. The theater will sell concessions and accept donations.
“We go into any building downtown and people don’t look like me – owning or working,” said Clifton Forge Mayor Pamela Marshall. “I know they see it and hopefully we’ll be able to talk about it.”
Marshall, the first African American woman to serve as the town’s Mayor and a member of the town’s council, hopes this weekend drives in more diversity and inclusion.
In Covington, the Clifton Forge/Covington NAACP will host a community celebration with history, music, food and more. The event is on Juneteenth, Saturday from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. at Jeter Watson Park. The event also marks the resurgence of the area’s NAACP chapter.
These are the first of many annual events hoping to acknowledge the past while building a better future.
“We are resilient people. Today, we can make it happen,” said Clifton Forge/Covington NAACP Secretary Kim Lewis.