City Hall

Dallas Juneteenth Organizers Say Parade Here 'For a Very Long Time'

Darryl Blair and his wife, Sherri, speaking at the Juneteenth celebration in South Dallas
Darryl Blair and his wife, Sherri, speaking at the Juneteenth celebration in South Dallas Steven Monacelli
The news traveled slowly. Enslaved Texans didn't learn officially of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation until June 1865, a little more than two years after he issued it.

In Dallas, the Black community has long marked Juneteenth, but this year's celebrations came at an especially emotional time for the country. It came only two days after President Joe Biden signed legislation recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, an effort long championed by Fort Worth activist Opal Lee.

It’s also the first year Dallas has had several large-scale Juneteenth celebrations. One of them, the inaugural Juneteenth Celebration, March & Festival was organized by the historically Black newspaper Elite News and the Blair Foundation. Thousands came out to Fair Park.

At 10 a.m., a few dozen pedestrians and a long line of cars — including dozens of Corvettes — set out from William Blair Jr. Park to march more than three miles to Fair Park. As they made their way through South Dallas, people gathered on the sidewalk to watch, and some even joined in as they saw the parade pass.

When they arrived at Fair Park, parade participants and other attendees were greeted with live music, food and speakers. Dozens of interactive booths included historical exhibits, fashion boutiques, voter registration and even vaccine sign-ups. Throughout the day, thousands poured through Fair Park to join.

“It was an emotional day for me," said Darryl Blair, publisher of Elite News and son of the late William Blair Jr., “because my father, William, my mother, Mozelle, and my brother Jordan poured into me a spirit of engagement.”

"It was an emotional day for me." - Darryl Blair, Elite News

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Darryl’s father, William, passed away in 2014. Before his death, he was the senior publisher of Elite News and the driving force behind a long-running Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. Known as the People’s Parade, it grew to be one of the largest in the nation despite dueling with a separate city-sponsored parade for nearly three decades.

Within a year of William’s death, disagreements over permitting and fees between Elite News and City Hall led to the People's Parade being canceled.

According to Darryl Blair, former City Council member Dwaine Caraway had hijacked the parade. Caraway has since been convicted of public corruption for unrelated crimes and now sits in jail.

At the time, Caraway and others at the city claimed the Blairs had failed to submit a permit and had racked up unpaid fees owed for the previous year’s parade. But the dueling parades merged in 2015, and a separate entity has organized the Dallas Martin Luther King Jr. Parade ever since.

Whatever the cause, the loss of the People’s Parade was a blow to the Blair family. For his part, Darryl was sent into a depressive episode. But the hit wasn't hard enough to keep the family down for good.

Though they've since stayed out of annual MLK Parade organizing, they intend to carry forward the Blair legacy through a new tradition. “The Juneteenth parade and celebration is something that Dallas is going to have for a long time,” Darryl said. 
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Steven Monacelli has been contributing to the Dallas Observer since 2020. He regularly covers local social movements and occasionally writes about food.
Contact: Steven Monacelli