SAN ANTONIO – The connection between baseball and Juneteenth might seem thin at first, but the two are closely connected.
In 1898, San Antonio had its first Juneteenth celebration, and a game of baseball was part of the festivities.
The San Antonio African American Community Archive Museum (SAAACAM) and Texas Kidney Foundation (TKF) paired up for TKF’s annual Night with the Missions fundraiser game. The event commemorates players who contributed to the advancement of the leagues and celebrates Juneteenth as well. The fundraiser will be Saturday, June 19 at Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $75.
Tiffany Jones Smith, the CEO of the San Antonio Texas Kidney Foundation, reached out to SAAACAM when she both wanted to honor her people and noticed the annual fundraiser always falls on or near June 19.
“The way we got together and started working on this is every year the Texas Kidney Foundation has a fundraiser with the Missions, and they do an auction of jerseys for us,” Smith says. “And it’s a really great time. Well, I saw that it falls right at Juneteenth every year, and I thought we needed to be doing something to honor our people and [SAAACAM] is the organization that’s really keeping an accurate history of our people.”
Deborah Omowale Jarmon is the CEO and director of SAAACAM. She says these fundraisers are a big deal for both organizations because most of their services and activities are free to the community. The fundraising events are more elaborate.
The Night with the Missions fundraiser, in particular, will include a meet-and-greet with current and former players, fireworks, a ball and more to complete the night for Juneteenth.
“It will be this big white tent in the infield, all the food you can eat, pouring all the beer you can drink and additional libations,” Jarmon said. “There will be fireworks and a DJ. But we’re doing it because the services that we both provide to the community and in our target audiences, are people of color. We are the ones that are most affected by kidney disease, so we are both kind of targeting that same market.”
There will also be baseball replicas, memorabilia and books for sale by and about African-American legends in baseball, like Biz Mackey and John ‘Mule’ Miles.
“The Giant Behind the Plate, which is the story of Biz Mackey, who played for the pennant-winning San Antonio Black Aces, and we will be selling a replicate jersey of the San Antonio Black Aces approved by the Negro League Baseball Museum and will carry their patch as well,” Jarmon said. “So we’ve got some cool stuff happening.”
The event is meant to be fun and comfortable, but it will also take a more serious tone by raising awareness of kidney health in the African-American community.
“Texas Kidney Foundation has a campaign called Silent but Deadly, and that’s our main focus,” Smith said. “Everything else falls under the umbrella of Silent but Deadly because kidney disease is a silent killer. One in three in Texas and across the nation are at risk for kidney disease. So we’re always looking for ways to bring up awareness about kidney disease, and all you have to do is go to silentbutdeadly.org.”
As for what the youth should gather from the importance of Juneteenth both women say the younger generations should learn from their history.
“As an African-American woman leading a statewide organization, I have to remember Juneteenth and the fact that we were enslaved and how far we’ve come as African-Americans from being gaslit and enslaved for 400 years,” Smith said. “It reminds me that our history is one of the most important things that we can know about ourselves. If you separate people from their history, then you’ve killed them. That’s why it’s important to continue to celebrate Juneteenth.”
Read more about Juneteenth from KSAT: