Juneteenth: Stokes Declares June 19, 2020, Sheriff Lee Vance Day and Jackson Advocate Day

Chef Kazzy Ferdinand served at the Ward 3 Juneteenth celebration in downtown Jackson. Photo by Kayode Crown

Chef Kazzy Ferdinand served at the Ward 3 Juneteenth celebration in downtown Jackson. Photo by Kayode Crown

Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes honored Hinds County Sheriff Lee Vance and the Jackson Advocate newspaper on Friday as part of a Jackson Juneteenth celebration.

He proclaimed Juneteenth, 2020 in Ward 3, as Sheriff Lee Vance Day and The Jackson Advocate Newspaper Day, respectively.

Juneteenth is a yearly celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, honoring June 19 in 1865 when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas, that all slaves in Texas were free. It was primarily observed in Texas but has spread across the country.

The downtown celebration in Jackson was outside on the Congress Street side of the Hinds County Sheriff's office, which also borders the Jackson Police Department’s headquarters. It featured a mobile grilling station serving food to law-enforcement officers from both the Sheriff's office and JPD.

‘We Don’t Have That Kind of Problem Here in Hinds County’

Stokes said he chose Vance as an honoree in recognition of his long-time service to the people of the community. "We see what's going on all over the country, and we are so very blessed that we don't have that kind of problem here in Hinds County, and in the City of Jackson,” Stokes said. “It is because of the Sheriff's Department's caring heart. Lee Vance is a humble and highly respected role model and law enforcement chief executive."

Jackson, however, has seen its own share of police-brutality cases, including before Vance stepped down as police chief in late December 2017. He successfully ran for sheriff last fall.

Mayor Chokwe W. Lumumba on Friday responded to some of Jackson’s cases of police shootings, beatings and potential choking incidents by signing an executive order that included banning JPD officers from using chokeholds or shooting at moving vehicles, and requiring officers to report any violation of the order.

Vance recently led a charge to develop a stronger SWAT team to help counter violence in Jackson, Byram and Hinds County.

Stokes’ proclamation praised Vance as a leader in the community who "rose through the ranks of law enforcement to head the largest law enforcement jurisdiction in the state of Mississippi, as the former chief of the Jackson Police Department and now holds the elected office of Hinds County Sheriff."

Vance, who grew up on Wood Street in Jackson, said he appreciated the award and that the day was a joyous moment for him. "During my 30-plus years in law enforcement, I have been blessed to receive a lot of awards and a lot of honors," he said. "This is so special to me; this has elevated itself perhaps to the top."

The sheriff praised Stokes’ responsiveness to his community. "Councilman Stokes is not only a great public servant, but he also is a friend of mine, and I just appreciate him very much," he added.

"I want to thank God for giving us the strength to do what we do every day," he said. "And I want to thank the outstanding staff that I have with me."

‘Keeping the Freedom-fighting Legacy’

Stokes in the second proclamation that he signed recognized the place of the Jackson Advocate newspaper in the history of the Black press.

He said the newspaper, which is the oldest African American newspaper in Mississippi, is a "highly respected journalistic expression of the hopes and struggles of Black people in Mississippi."

The Ward 3 councilman hailed the paper, now run by Deanne Tisdale-Johnson, as a "national treasure.” The weekly paper first published in 1938 at the time Jim Crow laws were the legal tool to segregate and oppress African Americans. He said the newspaper is "keeping the freedom-fighting legacy" and "empowerment mission."

Stokes said he had first observed the Juneteenth celebration as a student in Texas, and "when I came back from Texas to Mississippi, we started celebrating Juneteenth, and we kept it going."

Email story tips to city/county reporter Kayode Crown at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @kayodecrown.

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