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Opal Lee kicks off Fort Worth Juneteenth celebrations with annual prayer service

Opal Lee took to the pulpit with her granddaughter, Dione Sims, at Good Shepherd Temple of Praise May 31, 2024, to speak at the 21st Lillian Ruth Bush Ecumenical Breakfast of Prayer.
Marissa Greene
/
Fort Worth Report
Opal Lee took to the pulpit with her granddaughter, Dione Sims, at Good Shepherd Temple of Praise May 31, 2024, to speak at the 21st Lillian Ruth Bush Ecumenical Breakfast of Prayer.

Pastor Charlie E. Nickerson remembers being a young man running a grocery store on the southside of Fort Worth while watching Opal Lee strive to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

Pastor Charlie E. Nickerson remembers being a young man running a grocery store on the southside of Fort Worth while watching Opal Lee strive to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

On Friday, Lee was sitting in a front row pew of the church Nickerson leads, celebrating the month of Juneteenth with prayer.

Worshippers across Tarrant County visited the Good Shepherd Temple of Praise in Fort Worth May 31 for the Lillian Ruth Bush Ecumenical Breakfast of Prayer, an annual tradition that brings together people from different denominations in the faith community to honor Juneteenth and pray for unity, freedom and peace.

“Just because you’ve been hurt or you failed in some way does not mean that you cannot rise above your situation and attain success,” Nickerson said during Friday’s service. “Today we look at Dr. Opal Lee, who rose above her situation.”

Pastor Charlie E. Nickerson organized the Good Shepherd Temple of Praise in 1992. The church hosted the annual prayer service May 31, 2024, to commemorate Juneteenth.
Marissa Greene
/
Fort Worth Report
Pastor Charlie E. Nickerson organized the Good Shepherd Temple of Praise in 1992. The church hosted the annual prayer service May 31, 2024, to commemorate Juneteenth.

Lee, known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” is a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated civil rights activist known for her walk campaign to the White House, aimed at getting the attention of legislators to make Juneteenth a national holiday. The day became a federal holiday in 2021, with Lee in attendance as President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth bill into law. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Biden in May.

“If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love,” 97-year-old Lee said at the service.

Dancers from Motiv8ion Dance Studio performed “A Day of Reverence” and “A Dance of Freedom” during the service on May 31, 2024.
Marissa Greene
/
Fort Worth Report
Dancers from Motiv8ion Dance Studio performed “A Day of Reverence” and “A Dance of Freedom” during the service on May 31, 2024.

The sanctuary was filled with prayers, worship music and dances throughout the service. In the audience was Renee Alexander-Jackson, rocking one baby granddaughter in her lap while watching her other granddaughter perform “A Dance of Reverence” during the service.

Alexander-Jackson lives down the street from Good Shepherd Temple of Praise and attended the Breakfast of Prayer service to honor Juneteenth — and a chance to meet Lee.

“I loved the unity,” Alexander-Jackson said. “There was unity all around from the praise of worship to the breakfast being served to the ministers speaking. It was beautiful.”

Unity Unlimited Inc., a nonprofit created by Lee and her granddaughter, Dione Sims, organized the event. The group focuses on providing educational activities and resources to foster unity among people of different races, cultures and denominations.

The annual event is named after Texas evangelist Lillian Ruth Bush and honors her idea to commemorate the general order informing the people of Texas that all enslaved people were now free with a worship service.

Sims, executive director of the nonprofit, took to the pulpit to address the spiritual significance of Juneteenth, referencing a chapter from Exodus in the Bible where God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

Sims uses the chapter to talk about the importance of remembering African American history and looking toward the future.

“In remembering, it’s not baking in bitterness or hatred about where we’ve come from. But it’s an understanding of the grace of God that has been able to move us forward,” Sims said.

Marissa Greene is a Report for America corps member, covering faith for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at marissa.greene@fortworthreport.org or @marissaygreene. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Copyright 2024 KERA

Marissa Greene | Fort Worth Report