The Sankofa Heritage Museum, TALINDAS Afrikan Boutique, and the Israelite Heritage Organization sponsored their 12th annual Juneteenth celebration at the Woodland Heights Community Center adjacent to Pensacola Village on Saturday June 20th from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. The celebration was jammed packed with local community talent providing live music and entertainment including the Vivian Lamont and the Belmont Youth Band, Austin Paul, Jr. the saxophonist, Shirley Stone, Preech the Profit, Brother Dr. Mo Funk, and Rev. John Powell of Truth for Youth. There were also governmental, non-profit, and business vendors providing information and products.
The Sankofa Heritage Museum provided their three table displays of Israelite, Egyptian and African cultural and heritage research which served as the anchor for the vendors surrounding the walls of the Woodland Heights Gymnasium/Auditorium. Other supporters included Top Celebrity Crew, Shepherd’s Place, WRNE-980 AM and 106.9 FM, THE Extra Mile Achievement Matters, WBQP-TV, Couch Cookies & Catering, and DK 1 Promotions.
Belmont Youth Band performed “My Girl” by the Temptations and “At Last” by Etta James. There were gospel and spoken word performances. However, the overwhelming performance was by Austin Paul, the local saxophonist, now attending Florida A&M University in Music/Business, who performed a musical presentation that received a rousing round of applause, approval, and admiration from the audience. Austin, who has been performing since the 3rd grade at the age of eight. Austin stated in an interview with the Pensacola Voice, “I was committed to performing at Juneteenth because I want to help bring awareness to the community about the importance of this celebration”! His mother said, “I saw the gift in Austin and I wanted and still want to support the nourishing of the gift”!
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (which had become official January 1, 1863) the Union Army led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived at Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865 with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from the Black communities around the country. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members.