Celebration reminds visitors that struggle still continues

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 23, 2002

There was jewelry.

There were T-shirts with logos that ran the gamut from “Lil Thug” to “Son (or Daughter) of a Field Negro – The Struggle Continues …”

There was barbecue.

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There were CDs (more than a few of which bore no marketing label) with titles that ranged from “Pray With Me Gospel” to “Naughty by Nature.”

And there was even a little history thrown into the mix.

The Slavery and Civil War Museum’s first ever Juneteenth Festival concluded Saturday with a day-long celebration. The museum held its grand opening Wednesday.

Threatening skies may have hampered the turnout somewhat – and, in fact, rain sent vendors and attendees scampering for cover at one point Saturday – but museum director Vickie Donaldson pronounced herself satisfied with the four-day event, declaring, “It’s a start.”

The event drew vendors from as far away as Atlanta. When asked where he was from, one vendor hawking Bob Marley CDs and Lion of Judah flags replied simply, “Africa.”

Selma residents Falessia Shaw, Pamela Washington, Cassandra Washington and Lawanda George may not have traveled that far, but symbolically, perhaps, they may have come even further.

The four budding young business women took advantage of the festival to man their own booth selling clothes and framed posters with motivational sayings. It was the first time any of them had tested the entrepreneurial waters.

“You want to buy a picture?” asked Shaw. Turning to her business partners, she complained, “These pictures aren’t selling. We need more clothes.”

“It takes time. We’re just learning,” agreed Pamela Washington.

And that, it seems, was the whole point. The four belong to the 21st Century Youth Leadership Project’s Youth Opportunity Center. The booth was designed to provide hands-on experience in how the free enterprise system works.

“They’ve been learning a lot,” said Russell Williams, a motivational teacher with the center. This is part of the entrepreneurship classes we teach. They learn about profit and supply and demand and about starting their own business.”

Music for the festival was provided by the Angelic Harmonizers of Selma. The 12-man group has been together for 25 years.

“We started as a church choir with the Rev. A.R. Ray at Mount Calvary in Beloit,” said David Dixon, who acts as vice president for the group. “After about two years we changed our name to the Angelic Harmonizers.”

The group has put out its own album and traveled from Miami to Chicago and once even spent two weeks in Japan. Said Dixon, “We travel all over the Black Belt. We stay gone just about every weekend.”

The group has performed on the same ticket as such gospel stars as Lee Williams of Mississippi and Keith “Wonder Boy” Johnson.

“This is a ministry in music for us,” Dixon said. “We’re just passing the word of God along in song.”