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Clay County marks its calendars for Juneteenth holiday

Posted 6/13/24

CLAY COUNTY — Residents in Clay County will continue the annual celebration of Juneteenth this year in big ways. The day is meant to commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States. It …

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Clay County marks its calendars for Juneteenth holiday


CLAY COUNTY—Residents in Clay County will continue the annual celebration of Juneteenth this year in big ways.

The day is meant to commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States. It wasn't until June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, that approximately 250,000 remaining slaves in Texas would get the message that slavery had been officially abolished.

This, in turn, marked the beginning of a country completely rid of servitude.

Juneteenth became an official U.S. federal holiday back in 2021 and has since fostered celebration and events across the country.

And, here in Clay County, residents are keeping that joy alive.

There will be multiple local opportunities to celebrate and support the occasion this year, which falls on a Wednesday.

In Middleburg, St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church and the Hilltop/Clay Community Heritage will be hosting a "Juneteenth Holiday Celebration" on June 19.

The event will feature a "History of Juneteenth Program" at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church from noon to 1 p.m. on 2703 Forman Circle. Following that, the community will be able to have fun in the sun at the Hunter-Douglas Park/Community Center until 4 p.m.

Located on 4227 Longmire Road, the outside event will feature food trucks, games, music, a poetry competition, a pound cake tasting and contest and a Q&A session with Maude Jackson, Dr. Bernard Fennell and other iconic Civil Rights Leaders.

"It is a way to bring the community back together," said Pastor Samuel S. Lee of Middleburg's St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church.

Lee said the event will also feature appearances from the Clay County Sherriff's office, the fire department and Clay County commissioner Betsy Condon.

In addition to learning about history, the event will also provide an opportunity for guests to get registered to vote and obtain a free health screening with Ascension St. Vincent. The event will also provide free vendor opportunities to showcase any church, organization, community resources or agency.

Lee said that he hopes attendees get a sense of peace from coming out to celebrate.

There will also be a Juneteenth event on 3989 Eagle Landing Parkway on June 19. It will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. and feature food, live bands, DJ entertainment, games and interactive folk telling.

Founder and host Johnnetta Bryant said this will be the event's third year and it won't be the last.

"I've talked to so many people and sadly, this was something that was not taught about in school. And, again, this is as intricate and delicate to the United States citizens as the Fourth of July. So, I want this day to be given the same type of honor, the same type of respect, the same type of support," Bryant said.

Bryant said that the holiday has a special connection to Jacksonville in a big way.

"What we use as our Black national anthem, which is 'Lift Every Voice and Sing,' it just so happens to be written by someone out of Jacksonville, Florida," Bryant said.

Also, Bryant said that her son, Keedron Bryant, performed the viral song "I Just Wanna Live," detesting systemic racism and later being deemed the Associated Press song of the year, back in 2020.

"Those two songs were birthed out of this city, and I want Jacksonville to know that they should be aware, and they should support this day," Bryant said.

Uzuri Beauty will be having it's grand re-opening on June 22 to commemorate the holiday. Owner Kai Hodge said the store closed last June but will be making its reemergence amid Juneteenth.

Located on 175 Blanding Boulevard, Hodge said the store had originally opened on Juneteenth back in 2021, and every year since, they have been celebrating the anniversary.

Hodge said she chose Juneteenth as their opening day due to beauty supply stores playing an instrumental role in the Black community.

"We're very into the way we look. We take a lot of pride in that," Hodge said. "Actually, Black women are the highest contributors to the beauty industry, but we're the less represented at the same time."

Hodge said that during their grand opening, the store will host sales and giveaways to give back as much as they can to their culture.

In Orange Park, restaurant Mackey's Munchies will be hosting an Entrepreneurs Work & Play Mixer on June 22. The event will include networking, food specials and games.

Owner Brandye Mackey said the event aims to support other Black-owned businesses in the county.

"These things are done because sometimes as Black-owned businesses, we don't have the money or the resources to do a lot of advertising. So, this is just another way of bringing recognition and supporting so we can stay open," Mackey said.

Additionally, Jax PBS will be exploring the history of Juneteenth and celebrating Black culture and art, featuring three specials: "American Stories: Ida B. Wells," "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise & Fall of Jack Johnson" and "Becoming Frederick Douglass." For showtimes, check your local listings.

Amid celebrating and commemorating Juneteenth, Bryant said she hopes people take the time to come out and learn.

"I would love to see more people come and get educated on this holiday," Bryant said.