OAKLEAF – About 100 hundred people met at a pavilion on June 17 on Eagle Landing Parkway, with Black-owned businesses and food trucks, religious organizations and attendees gathered to honor …
OAKLEAF – About 100 hundred people met at a pavilion on June 17 on Eagle Landing Parkway, with Black-owned businesses and food trucks, religious organizations and attendees gathered to honor Juneteenth.
Juneteenth, officially recognized in 2021 as a federal holiday, is slowly growing in the cultural consciousness. It commemorates the final group of slaves to hear of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas, about two years after Abraham Lincoln’s famous executive order. Juneteenth is on June 19, though the federal day off was Monday.
Even in the harsh heat, Trenita White sang along with “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The song is commonly referred to as the Black national anthem and it was written by Jacksonville’s James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamund Johnson.
John and Trenita White drove roughly two hours to and from Gainesville to Eagle Landing and said they attend multiple celebrations each year. Trenita White said the song is about realizing where freedom came from, but also recognizing how far they have to go.
“The song says it’s time for our voices to be heard,” Trenita White said.
John White said Juneteenth represents freedom. He showed a picture on his phone in Selma, Alabama, with former Rep. John Lewis, who died two years ago.
In his mid-60s, John White cautioned that younger generations may lose the hunger for social justice because they didn’t have the same struggle for freedom as his generation.
“There was a time when if a white man or woman walked down the street, I would have to get to the side,” he said. “That’s no more.”
Leila Elise is a member of the younger generation. She said it was nice to support Black businesses and welcomed Juneteenth as a federal holiday, emphasizing that the fight for full equality in some areas isn’t over.
“It’s cool to see people are listening in some sort of way,” she said. “It’s progress, slowly but surely.”
Sharon Flowers and Chante Brumell attended the event with Middleburg’s Love Alive Church. Juneteenth is a reminder of when the slaves were freed, Flowers said. Events like last Friday’s get the ball rolling, Flowers said, and she wanted it to be a day of unity rather than division.
“It’s about beginning the awareness of Juneteenth and what it means,” she added. “You have a federal holiday and some people might not know what it means.”
Brumell said there should be a goal for the holiday to grow each year in awareness and recognition. She also spoke in support of Black-owned businesses.
“You see it everywhere, where you didn’t see it before. You’re seeing retailers selling certain things,” Brumell said. “It makes people Google it like, ‘What does that mean?’ I think over the next few years, it’s going to get bigger and bigger with people celebrating and we’ll start seeing more people celebrating with us.”
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