By JESSICA BAUER

LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER

Those who attended a day of fellowship at Laurel Park Saturday were looking for more than just an afternoon of fun.

They were hoping to make a statement for unity.

For the first time in the history of Conway, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, along with the local chapters of Phi Beta Sigma and Kappa Alpha Psi, sponsored Juneteenth activities.

According to Byron Ross, first vice-president of the Faulkner County NAACP, Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery for African Americans.

"Juneteenth is a celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation and the fact that the last slaves to get word that they were free didn't find out until two years later on June 19, 1865," Ross said. "And since this is the inaugural celebration in Conway, we wanted people to become educated about this part of history."

The local NAACP hosted an event Friday at Simon Park, during which the history of Juneteenth was shared and local groups provided theatrical entertainment.

Saturday's cookout, however, was all about coming together as one community, according to Ross.

"I believe it's important for us to come together like this because in order for other cultures to understand who we are, they have to understand what we are celebrating," Ross said. "This is part of our mission to exhibit an invitation of unity in the Conway community."

Residents of all ethnic backgrounds, ages and walks of life came together for a picnic in the park Saturday to play games and enjoy lunch.

Christopher Hervey, president of the local NAACP, said recognizing that it takes an entire community to make progress is important.

"The purpose of Juneteenth is to celebrate the freedom of slavery and recognize the fight and fortitude African Americans displayed during this trying time in history," Hervey said. "But we also want to acknowledge and emphasize the progress we have made and the unity that we can accomplish by working together."

With more than 70 members, the local branch of the NAACP is growing steadily; however, Ross said there are still many Faulkner County residents who don't know the group exists. He said celebrating Juneteenth and being an active part of the community will change that.

"The face of Conway is changing," Ross said. "There is lots of diversity on the way and there is already lots of diversity here, so it is important for us to celebrate the culture of diverse events."

Local sponsors of the Juneteenth activities included Harris Construction, Sandstone Real Estate, Centennial Bank, Arvest Bank, Simmons First National Bank, Stoby's, Ester Properties and George MacKey, CPA.

(Staff writer Jessica Bauer can be reached by e-mail at jessica.bauer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)