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Empowering Black Heritage, Juneteenth Parade at Prince William Forest Park

By Jamar Billingsley, A journalist from Regent University


Black Men and Women standing united, in their respective Greek Lettered Organization's colors.
Submitted: Members of the Divine Nine serving as Grand Marshals for the Parade.

Virginia Black Lifestyle Magazine (VBLM) and its Founder, Ms. Cydny A. Neville, were

honored to host the "4th Annual Greater Prince William Juneteenth Parade" in partnership with the National Park Service’s Prince William Forest Park on June 19th, at 18170 Park Entrance Road in Triangle.


This year's Juneteenth Parade highlighted the Divine Nine, while also sharing the spotlight with the Reid family at the Juneteenth Celebration. The Divine Nine consists of nine sorority and fraternity organizations dedicated to principles of personal excellence, racial uplift, community service, civic action, and kinship.


While attending Virginia State University a historical black college, Neville would pledge Zeta Phi Beta sorority in 1998. Neville has always dreamed of a parade that celebrates and represents African American Heritage and Prince William County. The three previous parades were held at Dumfries Methodist Church where the parade would begin, participants would then march to Dumfries Elementary School, concluding the parade with a ceremony held in front of the Dumfries African American Cemetery.



Melonie Bennet, Volunteer Manager of Juneteenth Parade Committee, anticipated a large turnout for this year's event. “I want people to learn about the history of African Americans and the rich history of Prince William Forest Park,” Bennet said.

SAVE THE DATE!

Neville proposed the parade in 2020 but was initially limited to a genealogy zoom

presentation due to the pandemic. As the Juneteenth Parade event grew each year, so did its name, evolving from Dumfries Parade to Greater Prince William Parade.


“Prince William Forest Park was a perfect place to host this year’s Juneteenth parade celebration because of its history, space accessibility, and large parking area. The event outgrew the previous location, which is a good problem for us,” Neville said.





Well over 200 people attended the Juneteenth celebration at the historic park this year.

Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, addressed the crowd during the event and presented The Juneteenth Parade Committee with a copy of a proclamation for the "4th Annual Greater Prince William Juneteenth Parade" honoring their hard work, and the dedication of the Divine Nine.


A man holding a paper, reading the introductions to the Juneteenth Program
Submitted: Pastor Archer leading the program

Pastor Will Archer of Potomac Valley Church served as Master of Ceremony for the program.

During the celebration, Pastor Archer spoke about the General Order No. 3, which freed the slaves in Texas - two years after it was signed. “I’m incredibly honored to MC the Juneteenth

Parade celebration. Black history means everything to me because of three things: honoring our past, being present in the present, and looking forward to the future,” Archer said.


“This annual event is much bigger than me. I want to personally thank my volunteers Ms. Bennet and Lofton; this wouldn’t be possible without them,” Neville said.


“I am proud to have served on the Greater Prince William Juneteenth Parade for the past four years. Today was an awesome day to celebrate Freedom Day,” Lofton said.


Bennet and Lofton executed the jubilant event spearheaded by Neville, while has been in South Africa on her second Fulbright-Hays fellowship conducting research with the University of Pennsylvania Africana Studies Department. Neville plans to continue growing the annual parade; taking it state-wide next year: The Virginia Juneteenth Parade.

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