BY: Jeremie Samuel
People of all ages and various backgrounds gathered downtown at Community Maritime Park to honor African-American history, culture and heritage during the Juneteenth Heritage Festival on last Saturday. The Juneteenth Celebration, dating back to 1865, commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19, 1865, that Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, announcing that the Civil War was over and that the enslaved were now free. It is that day, June 19th, that the term Juneteenth was coined.
On Saturday afternoon, the crowd gathered on the green in front of the amphitheater at Community Maritime Park to enjoy the festivities. Tents stood around the green as attendees viewed what the vendors had to offer. Potter George Stinson worked with clay on site under his tent behind a table of polished ceramics. Speakers talked about history and culture while the young and old listened in the audience. The speakers covered facts about the horrid Atlantic slave trade and the African and even Middle Eastern lineage of black Americans.
There were multiple musical performances in between speeches. The Belmont Youth Band performed two pieces and rappers Dawid and Rio from Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale moved the crowd with eye-opening lyrics. Dr. Eric Moore of the Israelite Heritage Organization reminded the people of their ancestry and the need for them to remember who they are.
“Never let anyone lie to you about who you are,” Dr. Moore said. “Know who you are and then you are to be responsible.”
Vendors offered a variety information of items like art, African sculptures, embroider garments, and ceramics. Vendor Claude Perry offered jewelry, fragrances, and African sculptures to customers. The youth enjoyed snow cones in the warm weather and some sat down at Shay Dolcé face painting to dawn colorful face painted masks.
Juneteenth has been recognized as a state holiday or state holiday observance by 41 states and the District of Columbia since June 2011. This was the 9th annual Juneteenth Heritage Festival for Pensacola held by Sankofa Heritage Museum and Resource Center.