ST. PETERSBURG – Gallerie 909 celebrated Juneteenth through the lens of culture and art as it pertains to the local community.
The Juneteenth Freedom Festival concluded Monday, June 19 with a viewing of original art produced by local kids in the Youth Arts Corp (YAC) housed at the Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center. The project partnered with Paulette Jones’ Midtown Celebrity Club.
Over a dozen students from ages five and up participated in the competition by responding to the following prompt: What is the meaning of freedom in the context of Juneteenth?
Four students at YAC shared their thinking process as they began and completed their drawings.
Kyla Tearett, a 12-year-old student at Bay Point Middle School depicted a war symbol with two swords, a shield and two arms breaking free from the shield.
“I pretend that’s freedom because the war battles consumed the slaves getting their freedom and for white people not having slaves,” said Kyla, who came up with the idea from reading historical accounts.
Eight-year-old A’rayla Davis of Perkins Elementary said, “To me freedom means Abraham Lincoln is unlocking the chains so black people can be free and white people don’t have slaves. In my painting, the people are lined up in chains and there’s a door. A person breaks the chains and the people are freed.”
A’rayla liked the idea of being able to create a story about Juneteenth by drawing a picture of black people finally getting their freedom.
Janyah Shubert, a fifth-grade student from Campbell Park Elementary, went down a more metaphorical path.
“My picture was about a bird being free from being cramped up inside of a cage. What it meant was how African Americans who were working in one small area in the fields, but once the slaves were freed, their wings fluttered and they had room to move.”
Nine-year-old E. Walls from Lealman Avenue Elementary not only depicted the slaves being freed, he had Lincoln doing the bulk of the work.
“He was standing and was taking the cuffs off of all the slaves’ arms.”
The art competition expanded the reach of Juneteenth into not only the YAC but also into the Pinellas County Schools. The paintings by the youths captivated the attention of those who came out to the final activity of this year’s Juneteenth celebration.
The winners in the five to eight-year-old category were: E’Shanti Page (1st Place), Anthonio Newton (2nd Place) and Oksana Green (3rd Place). The winners in the nine to twelve-year-old category were Destinee Pollock (1st Place), A’rayla Davis (2nd Place) and Zoe King (3rd Place).
First place winners received $25, second place received $15 and third place received $10. All participants received a certificate of participation and a pizza party for doing an outstanding job.