ST. PETERSBURG — A bright, sunny Saturday set the stage for the 22nd annual Juneteenth Celebration at Campbell Park. The event was hosted by the Midtown Celebrity Club Inc., a 501(c) 3 community grassroots organization formed by Paulette Jones. The purpose of the club is to provide mentoring and leadership to at-risk youth aged 5-17 through educational enhancement and the performing arts.
Several vendors and local performers were on hand to commemorate the history of Juneteenth.
“The purpose of Juneteenth is to promote diversity and move us to the next level as far as developing social relationships in the community,” said Jones.
Juneteenth commemorates the news on June 19, 1865, that slaves in Texas were free. When Union General Gordon Granger announced freedom for all slaves in the last southern state in rebellion following the end of the Civil War, the former slaves were reported to have celebrated jubilantly.
This occasion established America’s second Independence Day Celebration and the oldest African-American holiday observance. Forty-two states currently recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday, or special day of observance with Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah being the last holdouts.
Nearly 150 years later, the slavery of African-Americans may only exist in textbooks, journals, diaries, and re-enactments in film and literature. However, the vestiges of racism, bigotry, and sexism still pervade the psyche and culture of the United States like a cancer that relentlessly refuses to die.
Jones, like many brave grassroots warriors, is still optimistic as reflected in her future plans for Juneteenth next year.
“I’d like to have Juneteenth at a different location next year and cater to a more diverse population because to me that is part of the purpose of Juneteenth,” she said.
On a microscopic level, Jones’ future aspirations were already beginning to unfold with a variety of vendors and patrons who participated in the event.
Tameka Williams escorted three talented young people of True Worshippers Mime Ministry, a non-denominational mime group of young African-American youth who perform at local community functions. Many of the boys and girls that were a part of Jones’ youth performance group had their faces painted by Nancy Self of Fancy Nancy Entertainment.
Physical Trainer Barbara Odom, owner of Transformation Fitness, was also available to discuss future lifestyle and fitness plans.
City Councilman Wengay Newton was on hand to give his support for the Juneteenth Celebration.
Nonalcoholic Pina Coladas were served to deliciously cool down the heat and humidity of the day and were reasonably provided by two lovely ladies from the community.
Live music and entertainment was provided by a quartet from the Urban League’s Run Crime Out 28th Annual 5K and the mom and daughter team of Wendy Joann Bell and Jaycee Lee Sanders.
The successful execution of orders by Major Gen. Granger under Lincoln’s executive orders closed the book on the slavery of millions of Africans in one sense, but slavery itself has many faces and has re-invented itself over and over again. The insidious slavery of drug addiction is a matter we will further explore.