Reclaiming history

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 17, 2006

Museums, WCCS celebrate Juneteenth

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

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The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, the Slavery and Civil War Museum and Wallace Community College Selma invites the community to attend its Juneteenth Celebration, “a day long Freedom Jubilee,” which starts Monday.

Observed on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the official end of slavery in the U.S., said Afriye We-kandodis, one of the event’s coordinators.

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers to Galveston, Texas with important news – the Civil War was over and the enslaved were to be set free. The news arrived two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863.

According to the web site, the Emancipation Proclamation made a small splash in Texas, citing the document had little impact due to the lack of Union soldiers in the area to enforce the President’s order.

Attempts to explain the two and a half year delay sparks debate to this day.

We-kandodis said Juneteenth is an opportunity for a people to remember, reclaim and rebuild their history.

“Just like we recognize the Fourth of July, a day of independence, (Juneteenth) is a day of independence for us as well,” she said.

“A day of freedom. A day of new beginnings hopes and dreams.”

Monday’s Juneteenth Celebration will begin at the Slavery and Civil War Museum at 9 a.m. with the “Who Am I” Olympics of the Mind Black History Essay and Poster Contest, where contestants have a chance to win up to $500 in prizes.

At 10 a.m., children will march along Water Avenue to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the spirit of pioneer abolitionist Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Along the way, the children will receive clues showing them the way to freedom, We-kandodis said.

From 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., art inspired by moments in black history will be on display at the National Voting Rights Memorial Park. Admission to the event is $2 and boxed lunches will be available for $3.

The celebration will end with the first-ever Gospel and Praise Dance Freedom Concert and Fashion Show at WCCS at 7 p.m.

“We’re inviting the whole community of Selma to come out and celebrate with us,” We-kandodis said.

“It’s very important that we remember. We remember the story to reclaim our history and to reclaim it in such a way that we are not bitter and we’re not blaming anybody and most definitely we’re not ashamed of what our ancestors went through.”

For more information, call (334) 418-4889.