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Juneteenth memory keeper passing the torch

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Posted at 10:12 AM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 10:12:46-04

GALVESTON, Texas — Samuel Collins III wears many hats around Galveston, Texas.

Native to the area, memory keeper and mentor, he has a fire within to preserve the stories of Juneteenth.

"There's a Buddhist saying, 'When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Welcome to class,'" he said.

Juneteenth, or June 19th, marks the day in 1865 when news reached the coastal community of Galveston that all slaves in Texas were free. Texas was the last state in the Confederacy to receive word that the United States had abolished slavery and the Civil War was over.

Americans will observe Juneteenth as a federal holiday on Monday, June 20. Government workers and others will have the day off, though the holiday falls on Sunday. President Joe Biden signed a bill into law in 2021, making Juneteenth a national holiday.

During numerous Juneteenth celebrations in Galveston this year, Collins will be working to pass the torch and the stories of the historic day. He's training 19-year-old Amari Rowe to lead the Freedom Walk he organized one year ago.

"Allowing my torch to light her torch, so that we get a brighter light everywhere we go," Collins said.

The Freedom Walk includes five stops around Galveston and retraces the steps of the significant day in history.

Though Collins and Rowe are decades apart in age, they are leading the charge as one to preserve the memories of Juneteenth through the Freedom Walk tours.

"It's definitely a part of me," Rowe said.

"We all are here temporarily. No one lives forever, so it's important that generations not yet born hear the stories of these places," Collins said. "If we learn the truth, we can heal from the truth and make sure we don't make the same mistakes of the past. Amari gives me hope that there is a generation that cares about the history."

Rowe said she learns something each time she spends time with Collins. She's already guiding Freedom Walk tours on her own.