Kilgore Legacy Foundation’s 2019 Red & Black Ball offered moments to reflect on the past and look toward the future but the central theme of the event was clear: celebration.
DJ Reggie Bell welcomed those attending and remarked KLF was celebrating its sixth anniversary and had given $7,000 in scholarships to local students since its inception.
This, he said, was cause for celebration.
“What I really want to say is kick off your heels, pull off your coat, get you something to eat, listen to the music, have a good time, you’re welcome!”
Master of Ceremonies Ralph Steber next took the stage to welcome city officials and civic leaders in attendance. This group included Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin, City Manager Josh Selleck, Kilgore ISD Board of Trustees President Reggie Henson, Kilgore College President Dr. Brenda Kays and Gregg County Pct. 4 Commissioner Shannon Brown.
Bell and Thee Evolution Band kept music rolling throughout the dinner and local singer Genae’a Tatum performed two solos.
After dinner, the event moved on to the highlight of the evening: the royal presentation and crowning of the Juneteenth King and Queen as foundation member Shonise Barnes announced the essay contest winners. The 2019 essay contest drew a record high number of entrants, eight in all, five girls and three boys.
KHS senior Samuel Kosel received the King crown, bestowed on him by Devonte Doss, the first student to earn the honor in 2017.
Barnes read a list of Kosel’s accomplishments, which include three years on the KHS basketball team, membership in the African-American Student Alliance Club, Voices of Soul gospel choir, God Squad and his church’s youth group. He plans to attend Stephen F. Austin State University following graduation and eventually obtain a Master of Business Administration degree and land a job in marketing.
After receiving the crown, Kosel read his winning essay to the audience.
“The very thought of Juneteenth stirs various emotions within me. However, what it truly means to me can be summed up in these three words: hope, perseverance and freedom. First of all, some observe Juneteenth with the notion of it being just another holiday of parades, eating good food, partying and having fun festivities. They carry on without fully appreciating the true reason why this day is commemorated. I don’t take this day for granted.”
Kosel went on to explain the significance of Juneteenth for him as a biracial youth. The holiday helped him honor and celebrate his black heritage, he said.
KHS Senior Jamaria Thomas was crowned queen.
Also a KHS basketball player, Thomas volunteers with Kilgore Helping Hands, Harrison’s Marketplace, SAFFE Day, East Texas food banks, Habitat for Humanity and has earned numerous academic awards. She plans to attend Sam Houston State University.
“Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, or Freedom Day, is now an American holiday that recognizes the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas as well as the emancipation of black slaves throughout the former Confederate States of America,” Thomas read from her essay. “First of all, I know that it is important to understand the symbolic and even global perspective of Juneteenth. I know that it is important to remember the events of 1865 in Texas so they are not forgotten. My family, like those families back then, have roots that grow and tie back to the fertile soil of Texas.”
Thomas told the audience how her family history could be graced back to Gladewater when, in 1893, her ancestors helped build the New Hope Baptist Chruch.
Both winners said Juneteenth was an important connection to their history and their culture.