Flowers of hope: Day four of Juneteenth celebration

BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Paulette Jones and her young helpers from the Midtown Celebrity Club planted flowers to beautify the sidewalks along the 16th Business District Corridor in commemoration of Juneteenth and the spirit of unity and cooperation.

“Today is a special day that we celebrate Juneteenth, the oldest African-American holiday that we celebrate,” said Jones.

Jones said Juneteenth is about getting our young people to know their history. According to the history, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in April of 1863. However, places in the South such as Texas did not want slavery to end prompting Lincoln to send federal troops to the southern hold-out states to free the slave. As a result, the slaves in Texas weren’t physically freed until June 19, 1865.

“We have a movement now to try and make Juneteenth a national holiday,” said Jones.

“It’s all about education; it’s all about empowerment and it’s all about providing a great foundation for our young people.”

For 2015, Jones said she would like to see more involvement from the community and “more collaboration between the businesses, non-profit and city government.”

One reason Jones had the last day of the Juneteenth celebration at My Place of Recovery, 1655 16th St. S., was to provide an example of what can happen when the community works together to embrace all of its citizens.

Jones said that Gene Wilder, who is also known as “Buddha” along the 16th Street business district, opened a community thrift store that doubles as a safe-haven for people with mental, physical and social issues. Many of Wilder’s clients are transitioning back into local communities to get a fresh start on life.

Wilder said that his business has been open for a year, and he feels like he’s been a part of the community for a much longer time. He enjoys the synergy of the 16th Street community.

“It’s not me but the community coming together to make these people feel welcome,” said Wilder.

Cynthia Tomlin, a Community Advocate for All Children’s John Hopkins Medicine  Healthy Start Program, was on hand at the thrift store to share information with the community about services being offered to reduce the infant mortality rate among black infants.

“Our role is to reduce infant rate mortality in the 33711-13, 01 and 05 area codes where we find the highest rate of infant fatality rate among black females,” said Tomlin.

They are looking to serve black females between the ages of 14-45 years old to help them have healthier lives and babies.

Just as Juneteenth has come to symbolize the birth of freedom from the wretches of slavery, the planting of flowers along 16th Street epitomizes the blossoming of new and better opportunities ahead for those seeking refuge and a new way of life.

To reach Allen Buchanan, email abuchanan@theweeklychallenger.com

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