The Planning District 16 Juneteenth Committee will honor the late Forrest Parker Sr. Saturday when it presents his namesake award for the first time.

Late ‘powerhouse’ to be honored at area Juneteenth celebration

by | Jun 14, 2024 | ALLFFP, Around Town, Events, Fredericksburg

When members of the Planning District 16 Juneteenth committee sought to conceive an award in honor of someone from the Fredericksburg region who selflessly impacted others, one name immediately came to mind. 

Forrest Parker Sr., who served as Dean of Admissions at the University of Mary Washington and as the CEO of the Rappahannock Area Boys and Girls Club, died Jan. 1 at the age of 64. 

Parker worked in academia for more than 20 years, including stints at UMW and James Madison University, diligently seeking to increase the enrollment of minority students at both institutions.  

Parker’s family will be on hand for the region’s annual Juneteenth celebration on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Virginia Credit Union Stadium. Gates open at 2:30 p.m. for the free event featuring more than 100 vendors, live music and family activities.  This is the fifth year of the event and the second straight year it’s being held at the stadium.

The committee will present human rights advocate Kimberly Jenkins-Snodgrass the inaugural Forrest Parker Sr. Advocacy Award. Fredericksburg Vice Mayor Chuck Frye Jr. will receive the Eunice Haigler Community Service Award, named after the local historian who worked with Del. Joshua Cole to help establish Juneteenth as a state holiday. 

Fredericksburg area history enthusiast Eunice Haigler (right) was honored by the Planning District 16 Juneteenth committee in 2023.

“The thing that was interesting about [Parker] is that he meant different things to different people,” said Gary Holland, founder and vice president of the Planning District 16 Juneteenth committee. “He did a lot of things in support of different groups … We wanted to highlight somebody every year who does a lot for people in this region other than themselves.” 

At JMU in the 1980s, Parker served as assistant dean of admissions, helping increase the university’s minority enrollment by 400%. 

He created two groups centered on Black students. Brothers of a New Direction (BOND) and Women of Color each gave minorities an avenue to collaborate and both groups are still active today. 

Parker was hired at UMW in 1989 and became the director of Project SOAR (Summer Orientation Adventure Retreat) and he helped lead the James Farmer Scholars program. He was the founding director of the Multicultural Center at Mary Washington, which is now named in honor of Farmer. Parker implemented the inaugural Mary Washington multicultural fair, which is now the second-most attended event at the university behind graduation. 

Parker was promoted to vice president of multicultural affairs at Mary Washington in 1993. Eight years later, he took a lead role in organizing the local boys and girls club, which grew to serve more than 4,600 youth in the region. He helped establish the Rappahannock Regional Uplift and Scholarship Foundation and a mentoring program called Passport to Manhood.   

“He was a pillar,” said Charita Mariner, president of the Planning District 16 Juneteenth committee. “He was a big advocate for the community. He was a powerhouse, and this [award] is one way that his legacy will continue to live on.” 

Mariner noted that Parker’s award is not the only new feature of the event this year. There will also be live gospel and jazz performances along with DJ Garry Green playing decades-themed music to encourage attendees of all ages to engage. As in previous years, there will also be a Mr. and Miss Juneteenth crowning and fireworks to end the evening at 8:30 p.m. 

Nayjah Mickens was crowned Miss Juneteenth in 2023.

Mariner said it is important that, amid all the fun and activities, the holiday’s purpose is not lost. Juneteenth marked the date, June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black people in Texas were informed of their freedom. 

With that in mind, the 23rd U.S. Colored Troops Regiment will post the colors and read the Juneteenth general order.  

Mariner also said a video will be played on the stadium’s jumbotron emphasizing the historical context of the holiday. 

“This is about more than having a good time,” Mariner said. “This is our Fourth of July. We want to make sure people are aware of that, and they know this is something we should be proud of, and we should be celebrating.” 

The Fredericksburg Nationals are allowing the committee to use the stadium free of charge. 

In addition to this celebration, Juneteenth events are taking place in Stafford and Caroline counties on Saturday. The Stafford event, sponsored by the county’s branch of the NAACP, will be held at Colonial Forge High School, beginning at 11 a.m.  

The Caroline event will take place at Caroline Recreation Park in Milford at 1 p.m.  

On June 19, Haigler will hold a commemoration in Fredericksburg’s Market Square at noon. Also on June 19, Spotsylvania County School Board member Nicole Cole will host a Juneteenth event, sponsored by the nonprofit Pathways to Success, at the John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center Museum from 5-8 p.m.  

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