Local events to celebrate Juneteenth and Emancipation Day

·7 min read

Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, will be celebrated in various ways in Gainesville throughout the next month.

President Joe Biden signed a bill last year officially designating June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, which is a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Vivian Filer leads the crowd in singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" ahead of the Journey to Juneteenth Freedom Walk at Depot Park on June 19, 2021 in Gainesville. The walk will be held again this year at Depot Park.
Vivian Filer leads the crowd in singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" ahead of the Journey to Juneteenth Freedom Walk at Depot Park on June 19, 2021 in Gainesville. The walk will be held again this year at Depot Park.

The city of Gainesville is sponsoring “Journey to Juneteenth” with programs all month long and special events leading up to the holiday on June 19, said Rossana Passaniti, the city's public information officer.

Juneteenth, which is observed on June 19 each year, is the oldest known celebration held to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger reached Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War and slavery had ended.

Emancipation Day commemorates the end of slavery in Florida when on May 20, 1865, 11 days after the Civil War ended, Union Gen. Edward M. McCook read the Emancipation Proclamation in Tallahassee. Emancipation Day and Juneteenth took place two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which became official on Jan. 1, 1863.

Juneteenth Events

• Reading of the proclamation and the raising of the Juneteenth flag with remarks by Gainesville city commissioners will be held from 9-10 a.m. Friday at the City Hall Plaza, 200 E. University Ave.

• Celebration of Florida Emancipation Day: The Emancipation Day Program and Fish Fry to celebrate the end of slavery in Florida and will be held beginning with the fish fry at 5 p.m. and the official program at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center at 837 SE Seventh Ave.

The cost for the fish dinners will be $15, and the proceeds will go to benefit the Cotton Club Museum. The event will feature singers, dancers, poets and dramatic presentations centered around emancipation and freedom.

“We will have a discussion of why we are celebrating May 20 as Emancipation Day in Florida,” said Delores Rentz, financial secretary, historian and event organizer at the Cotton Club Museum, “I’m hoping people will understand the emancipation in the different states and why it is celebrated on different days.”

• Movies at Depot Park will feature “The Queen of Katwe," which is about the constant struggle of a 10-year-old girl and her family living and trying to survive in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda.

It will be shown at 7 p.m. Saturday at Depot Park, 874 SE Fourth St..

• Youth Event: The Scavenger Hunt will center on historic facts about Juneteenth and will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Depot Park.

• Concert: The Lee Boys, fronted by Alvin Lee, will perform from 7-9 p.m. May 27 at the Bo Diddley Plaza in downtown Gainesville.

Nigel Hamm, program coordinator for the city of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, said The Lee Boys, who are based in Miami, are one America's finest Black sacred steel ensembles.

Lee describes sacred steel as an inspired, unique form of gospel music with a hard-driving, blues-based beat.

“It is rooted in gospel but infused with rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop, country and ideas from other nations,” said Lee. “It’s a get up and dance type of music.”

• Between Heaven and Earth: The Paintings of Alyne Harris exhibition, closing reception and art sale will be held from 5-8 p.m. June 3 at the Thomas Center Galleries, 302 NE Sixth Ave.

Harris will also host an art sale from 1-4 p.m. June 4 at the Thomas Center Galleries.

The city purchased a collection of 400 paintings from an earlier period including 200 that are in the city’s permanent collection and 200 that are available for the community to purchase and enjoy. Prices range from $50 to $500, and proceeds from the sale will go to support the collection and to expand it, said Russell Etling, cultural affairs manager for the city of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department. This collection is not available for advance purchase, will be sold only at the event with the majority of the pieces already framed and all the pieces are ready to be hung, Etling said.

Harris will be at the event selling contemporary pieces that she has done.

“She truly is telling a piece of Gainesville’s history through her work,” Etling said.

•Charles Bradley: Soul of America" is a music documentary about Bradley, who was 68 when he died of cancer in 2017,

Bradley was born in Gainesville, and the documentary charts his incredible late-in-life rise to becoming a musician in his own right. Bradley’s debut album rose to Rolling Stone magazine's top 50 albums in 2011. Charles Bradley-Soul of America will be shown at 7 p.m. June 10-11 at the A.Quinn Jones Museum and Cultural Center, 1013 NW Seventh Ave.

• The Smooth Flava line dancing group will host a family and friends interactive dance party from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. June 12 at the green on the Bo Diddley Downtown Community Plaza, 111 E. University Ave.

All ages are welcome to come dance and have fun line dancing. Elementary school teacher Wanda Lloyd in 2017 began organizing line dancing classes to create a space for Black professionals to come together, and she encourages people to bring their lawn chairs and join the party.

Those interested can participate in line dancing events held from 5:45-6:45 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Bo Diddley Plaza, Lloyd said.

Lloyd said the takeaway is love of dancing. “We want them to hopefully participate in Tuesdays and Thursdays line dancing, which is held from 5:45 - 6:45 p.m. at the Bo Diddley Plaza. “Just show up,” Lloyd said.

• The Synergy Magazine launch aims to bring more attention to Black professionals and will be held from 5:30-8 p.m. June 16 at the Thomas Center's Spanish Court, 302 NE Sixth Ave.

• The Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center will host its annual Juneteenth Breakfast.

It will be held at 7:30 a.m. June 17 at the center at 837 SE Seventh Ave. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at cottonclubmuseum.com/events. George Foxx will again cater the event that will feature music and other performances.

For more information, call 352-226-8321.

• Freedom Walk 2022 - Journey to Juneteenth - will be hosted by the city of Gainesville Office of Equity and Inclusion.

It will be held from 7-11 a.m. June 18 at Depot Park, 874 SE Fourth St. The program feature a DJ, live performances, presentations, games and a walk through several historic neighborhoods.

• Porters Quarters Juneteenth Fish and Chicken Fry with artists, dancers and truthtellers will be held from noon-4 p.m. June 18 at Shady Grove Primitive Baptist Church, 804 SW Fifth St.

There will also be a discussion about keeping Porters Quarters the vibrant community it has been for 100 years, said Faye Williams, a community organizer.

For more information, call 352-226-2623.

• Freedom Fest 2022 will be held from 5-9 p.m. June 18 at the Bo Diddley Downtown Community Plaza.

This is a family festival with musical performances by local and regional artists, food trucks, vendors, arts and crafts for children and other activities. The festival celebrates the period between Emancipation Day to Juneteenth and will provide an opportunity to learn about Florida Emancipation Day, Juneteenth, African history, Black history, Florida history and more.

• Blues Pioneers and Their Progeny Art Exhibition and Concert with Billy Buchanan will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. June 19 at A. Quinn Jones Museum and Cultural Center, 1013 NW Seventhth Ave.

Buchanan is known nationwide for both his award-winning songwriting and all-star tribute acts. Buchanan focuses on playing early rock classics and portraying the pioneers of rock and soul from the 50s and 60s including the greats like Ray Charles, The Drifters, Sam Cooke and Chuck Berry.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Local events to celebrate Juneteenth and Emancipation Day throughout the next month