On Monday, thousands will gather at Juneteenth celebrations across North Texas. There will be cookouts, live music, and history lessons of the holiday’s deep Texas roots, when, in 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Texas and announced enslaved people were free. It was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed Juneteenth into effect to recognize it as a federal holiday.
In Fort Worth, Jonathan Morris will host a Juneteenth celebration Monday at his boutique hotel, Hotel Dryce. Morris says he sees the celebration as an opportunity to share a piece of history and highlight the efforts of Opal Lee, known as the “grandmother of Juneteenth.”
Lee has lived in Fort Worth for the last 86 years. On June 19, 1939, white rioters burned down her family home. In the decades that followed, she became a teacher, community organizer, and activist. At the age of 90, she began walking 2.5 miles every Juneteenth in honor of the two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed all who were enslaved. The march was performed in conjunction with her crusade to make Juneteenth a holiday recognized outside of Texas.
“It means to me that this dream of Ms. Opal Lee, that she marched, fought, and rallied for for decades, [is] finally coming to fruition in her twilight years,” Morris says. “We’re able to celebrate Juneteenth in a way that is nationally recognized now. At Hotel Dryce, we want to be part of helping tell that story in a more broad way.”
Hotel Dryce has been open for nearly two years in Fort Worth’s Cultural District in a former dry ice warehouse. The venture began when Morris and his business partner, Allen Mederos, lamented about previous travel options.
“At the beginning of these conversations, we didn’t see anything that we felt like spoke to the accommodations that we look for when we travel,” Morris says. “We wanted to be something that felt authentically true to the city. That meant bringing in local artists, makers, and creatives to help us bring the vision to life.”
The hotel has hosted dozens of events in its lobby bar that have morphed the space into a reflection of revolving themes such as vinyl nights and silent book club meet-ups. This year, it will host its first Juneteenth event with Black vendors and locally-owned businesses. Morris, who is Black, says he wanted the event to be a celebration of “Black culture, Black culture in Fort Worth, and Black entrepreneurship.”
Reggie and Cedric Robinson of Lil Boy Blue BBQ will serve the same grilled offerings that have sold out at their previous pop-ups, like smoky brisket, pulled pork, and cracked black pepper sausage. The Robinson brothers have participated in Hotel Dryce events before, including a week-long stint and catering the Cowboys of Color kickback. Lil Boy Blue BBQ is named after their grandfather, who they say taught them to serve love and to love serving.
“Every individual with roots [from] Africa will be welcomed into events with celebratory congratulations for just existing,” Reggie says. “They’re a continuation of the bloodline that was formerly property. [Juneteenth is] a way to commemorate an atrocity. It also lifts the resilience of our people and the sustainability and ingenuity of the Black experience here in America. This connects us with the nostalgia of our past and the hope for our future.”
Terrell Johnson has spent the last eight years making sweets in North Texas through his dessert shop SNAP Pastries. The Sweets and Pastries founder will be making his Hotel Dryce debut with a signature cupcake made with simple syrup and GO3 vodka, the liquor brand named after the legal decree that became the catalyst for the holiday. He’ll also sell a variety of cupcakes, cookies, and cake pops at the event.
Johnson says he’s looking forward to the educational aspect of the event, including the rise of Black Lives Matter activism in recent years. He’s especially excited to share this event and holiday with the community he grew up loving.
“It means more to us than anybody else or any other culture,” he says. “We’ll probably be the only culture that truly understands what it means for it to be fought for; the appreciation won’t be the same, in my opinion, of someone outside of the Black culture.”
Juneteenth @ Dryce will be held at Hotel Dryce, 3621 Byers Ave., Fort Worth on Monday, June 19, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Learn more here.