Celebrating Juneteenth

Whitfield Jenkins and Loretta Pompey Jenkins

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, an estimated 250,000 African Americans in Galveston, Texas learned they were free. They were the last slaves to be told of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed months earlier. Juneteenth is a time for reflection of African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievements.

Sharington Houston and Aisha Pete, attending
previous Juneteenth celebrations.

“Juneteenth is important to me because I am only three generations from slavery,” says Barbara J. Brooks, Ph.D., president of the Ocala-based R.A.M.A.L. (Reach, Aim, Motivate and Lead) Educational and Social Services, Inc. “I am fortunate to have been born in 1948 and not 1848,’’ she explains. “I would have been a slave. I was born in a segregated society and lived 20 years of my life under segregation. Juneteenth is a time of reflection of a race of people who, in spite of oppression, helped moved this country forward toward a free society. If it were not for the Emancipation Proclamation, we would not have movement toward equality, inclusion and diversity in every segment of our society for all people.”

“Juneteenth is important to recognize and is necessary to educate others about because of the historical significance,” offers Sharington L. Houston, president of the Ocala Juneteenth Celebration Commission.

The importance runs deep for Houston “because of my boys, my nieces, nephews and those I mentor in the community.”

“My husband and I do not want our children to be ashamed of who they are and what their ancestors had to endure for them to be in the positions they are in today,” she adds. “Black Americans and our entire African diaspora are proud people and deserve this time to reflect, educate and celebrate.”

Two Juneteenth celebrations will take place in Ocala on June 18th.

The Ocala Juneteenth Celebration Commission and the city of Ocala will host an event from 10am to 4pm at Webb Field at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex, 1510 Northwest 4th St., Ocala. It will include entertainment, vendors, nonprofits, businesses and mentor groups. Funds from sponsorships will provide scholarships for local high school seniors for acceptance into a university, college or vocational program. The event is free to attend.

R.A.M.A.L. will present a dinner/dance fundraiser that starts at 7pm at the One Health Center, 1714 SW 17th Street, Ocala, with entertainment, a silent auction and raffles. The cost is $50 per person and tickets are available at Eventbrite.com. Proceeds will benefit community projects, scholarships for at-risk and nontraditional students, tutoring and mentoring.

“Juneteenth is a federal holiday and the Ocala City Council recently voted to include Juneteenth as a holiday,” Brooks notes. “Let us all make the Juneteenth celebration an annual tradition by participating in the events that remember, honor and work to improve our community.” OS

To learn more, go to fb .com/OcalaJuneteenth Celebration/ and ramalservices.org

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