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Juneteenth to highlight blacks' varied achievements

MANATEE - The black community of Galveston, Texas, officially heard on June 19, 1865, that President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, 2 1/2 years after the document ending slavery in the United States was signed.

The day was dubbed “Juneteenth,” slang for June 19, and memorialized with festivals and gatherings.

For 149 years, Juneteenth celebrated, mostly in churches, the self-improvement and educational achievements of blacks.

But the holiday gained national attention in 1999 with the posthumous publication of Ralph Ellison’s novel, “Juneteenth.”

A local event in celebration of the end of slavery will carry on the tradition of essay writing, lectures and poetry reading.

The organization Active Concerned Citizens, along with prominent residents of Rubonia, will hold a Juneteenth Celebration at noon inent residents of Rubonia, will hold a Juneteenth Celebration at noon Saturday and 2 p.m Sunday in the park next to the Rubonia Community Center, 1309 72nd St. E.

“Juneteenth is very important to me,” said Shavonda Bailey, one of the organizers of the Rubonia event, “because I feel my history has been left out of the history books.”

Bailey said many adults do not know about the history of how blacks were kept in slavery for 2 1/2 years after the emancipation because they were never taught about it in school.

“All Americans should be aware of the importance of Juneteenth,” she said, “because it’s part of American history.”

With events such as the one in Rubonia, Bailey feels more people will learn about the many achievements blacks have made.

“We have to teach our kids in the home, the community and our churches,” she said, “as well as the schools.”

Mary Mack, chairwoman of Newtown Front Porch Neighborhood Revitalization Council in Sarasota, agreed that children need to be taught about Juneteenth.

“It’s just as important to celebrate as July 4th,” said Mack, who is helping organize a Juneteenth festival in Newtown. “It has the same significance — freedom.”

The celebration in Sarasota, to be held 4-11 p.m. Saturday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park, off of Cocoanut Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, will include food, games, area vendors and music.

An arts and crafts show will be held in conjunction with the Newtown celebration on Friday at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

The Rubonia event also will have food, games and music, along with informational tables hosted by various organizations. Also there will be poetry readings by local poets, including Crystal Wilson and Shavonda Bailey, and two historians, Mackie Allen and Raphael Allen, will give talks on Juneteenth and black history.

On Sunday, in celebration of Father’s Day, there will be a football game with the fathers playing against their children.

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