FORT WORTH, Texas — The Juneteenth celebrations in Fort Worth filled with cheers not only for the national holiday, but for the woman who played a major role in making it happen.
Crowds responded without hesitation to, "If you are excited about Juneteenth, let me hear you say, 'Yeah! YEAH!'"
The grandmother of Juneteenth put on her walking shoes and hundreds joined Ms. Opal Lee for the 2022 Juneteenth Freedom Walk.
Sixteen-year-old Madison Corzine Madison, Miss Juneteenth DFW, was one of many who walked with her.
"It's interesting that we are able to celebrate her as she made American History and that is really important to me," Madison said.
The Freedom Walk started with live music at Evans Avenue Plaza. Praise team singer Kyle Spears has never met the 95-year-old, but considers her an icon.
Spears is from First St. John Cathedral Church, where he sings tenor for the praise team. He and his fellow church members were honored to be part of the live entertainment during the Juneteenth Weekend Breakfast at Evans Park.
For so many like Spears, Ms. Opal has become a person you want to meet because of her work in the community.
"The work that she has done is iconic to the work of somebody who is born and raised in Fort Worth, so it will be an amazing thing to meet her." Spears said.
When Ms. Opal lined up to lead her signature Juneteenth walk, the crowd cheered.
"She is so inclusive and we want this to be a day everyone feels welcome," Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said. "I think you kind of feel that vibe out here today for sure."
Fort Worth community leader Cory Session worked to help make the Juneteenth Freedom Walk an unforgettable experience. He is not surprised about the diversity of people and businesses who showed up to support the walk.
"A once segregated area now brought together by a 95-year-old woman who grew up in this area," said Session.
Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes said what Opal Lee has done has inspired his department as well.
"We could not ask for anything better than what she has done for Fort Worth," Noakes said.
That includes her every step of the freedom walk.
"Our Country is the greatest in the world, we're the richest," Lee said at the march. "There is not reason why we can't be the greatest."
Despite the extreme heat, Ms. Opal walked the two-and-a-half miles.
Then a van carried her to City Hall for the raising of the Juneteenth Flag where she talked about celebrating even bigger.
"I advocate we celebrate freedom from the 19th of June to the 4th of July!" Lee said to loud applause from the crowd.
The Juneteenth weekend included several events for people of all ages and backgrounds. Lee helped promote the events that target youth by passing out flyers which allowed them to sign up using their cellphones.