The Clay County African-American Legacy hosted its 17th annual Juneteenth celebration in late June at Garrison School, but the public still has an opportunity to celebrate and share the heritage of African Americans in Clay County.
An open house and public art show are planned Sunday to at the Garrison School, which will be open 4 to 6:30 p.m. 16.
“We are preserving history, we are celebrating culture and we are promoting human relations,” said Cecelia Robinson, historian for CCAAL.
The annual Juneteenth celebration commemorates June 19, 1865, when slaves in Texas finally learned that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the emancipation proclamation setting them free — 1 1/2 years earlier.
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The celebration included awards, artist recognition, music and soul food in the 140-year-old Garrison School in Liberty, which was founded as a school for black children.
“I think that CCAAL, since it was founded in 2000, has really contributed to the community of Liberty, to Clay County and to Kansas City,” said Kathryn Toure, who was honored at the event with the Trailblazer Award for Community Service.
CCAAL’s Education Award was given to Jordan and Rhonda Hollingsworth for mentoring students in the Liberty School District through CCAAL’s After School Education Mentoring program; and the Call to Response Award was given to Liberty School District, which increased its diversity hiring from 2 percent in 2013 to 9 percent in 2016.
Recognition was also given to three African-American artists whose works are on display in the Garrison School galleries: Sherry Whetstone-McCall, Curtis Crowley, and Howell Houston. Juan Houston, a jazz art collector, was also recognized.
The annual event gives CCAAL the opportunity to celebrate the success of Garrison School over 140 years, demonstrate commitment to goals and values, provide information to the public, and raise money for the non-profit, said AJ Byrd, president of the group.
“My observation is our community has come to appreciate CCAAL/Garrison’s role in the community,” Byrd said. “We think there’s a greater understanding of what diversity means and out of that comes relationships, quality relationships, that people can use to solve problems and create a better community.”
It’s important to have CCAAL, said Toure, who gave more than 300 volunteer hours to the organization over the last year and recently received a Ph.D in education.
“The demographics in our country are very much changing and our school textbooks are still very much telling a single story,” Toure said. “So CCAAL helps bring to the surface local history that we don’t learn about school, which we don’t have in the textbooks.”
Through the work of CCAAL in preserving the 19th century school, many Garrison classrooms have been transformed into special collection rooms and art galleries that celebrate the culture of the African-American, Robinson said. “This is our contribution to the African American heritage of Clay County.”
Tours of the galleries are possible during monthly events and by special appointment by calling Robinson at 816-781-7918 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on CCAAL and its programs is at: www.ccaal-garrisonschool.org.
A current project is the painting of historic murals which will be unveiled at Garrison in the fall.
Open house and art show
An open house and public art show are planned Sunday to celebrate and share the heritage of African-Americans in Clay County. Art galleries at Garrison School will be open 4 to 6:30 p.m. on July 16. The textile art of Sherry Whetstone-McCall; and the Jazz Art Collection owned by Juan Houston will be on exhibit at Garrison School through the end of July. However, viewings outside of the July 16 open house will have to be arranged with Clay County African American Legacy Inc. Historian Cecelia Robinson. Contact her at: 816-591-6199 or robinsonc@
The art show is free, however, donations are appreciated. Houston’s jazz collection will be shown at the American Jazz Museum on 18th and Vine in August.