Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Big Juneteenth celebration in St. Petersburg takes a pause

ST. PETERSBURG — More than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and slaves were free.

That day, June 19, 1865, is now commemorated annually by African-Americans across the country. It's known as Juneteenth or Freedom Day. The Tampa Bay area will observe it with events including the cleanup of a historic black cemetery in Pasco County on Tuesday and festivals in Plant City, Brooksville and Port Richey today. In St. Petersburg, though, a community celebration held since 1992 in a city park has been called off.

"I was devastated, and I was really heartbroken about it," said Faye Dowdell, who organized the event in recent years before putting it in the hands of another resident last fall.

"It's a really beloved event, and people are going to miss it," said Elizabeth Brincklow, arts and international relations manager for the city of St. Petersburg. The city provided $8,453 for the event last year, and a little over $3,000 was promised for this June.

Dowdell took over as organizer in 2007, after Jeanie Blue, the woman who launched the celebration, became discouraged and gave it up after 14 years. Blue said at the time that running the event had become stressful and financially burdensome. Dowdell encountered similar problems and last fall turned it over to a man called Alex Burns. Then, she said, "I heard from him he put it in a forced hiatus."

Michael Jefferis, superintendent of St. Petersburg's parks and recreation department, said employees have tried to contact Burns for six months. The Tampa Bay Times has also been unable to reach Burns.

"From the city's perspective, our concern was that we didn't receive an application for co-sponsorship," Jefferis said. "It's certainly unfortunate. It's always been a great event, always a meaningful event."

Dowdell will be involved in a smaller event this year. She has been invited to share the Juneteenth story Tuesday at the West St. Petersburg Community Library at St. Petersburg College.

In Plant City, the annual celebration will go on as usual. It will include entertainment, food and fishing, said Sharon Moody, president of Plant City Black Heritage, who organized the first Juneteenth event several years ago.

Moody said her group advertises the celebration at schools, churches, the housing authority and even door to door. "It's a nice crowd," she said. "We're looking for a better crowd this year."

Paul Boston began Brooksville's Juneteenth observance with a rally on the courthouse steps in 2004. These days the area celebrates at the Frederick Kelly Elks Lodge.

"What we try to do is inform the community about the history of slavery, educate our children about that message and explore the negativity of modern slavery, low-paying jobs, renting instead of owning your own house, inadequate education," he said.

The Black Caucus of Pasco County will continue its tradition of cleaning up historic Mount Carmel Cemetery.

The African American Club of Pasco has organized a more traditional Juneteenth celebration. The festival at the former Booker T. Washington School in Port Richey will include a garage sale, health screening and guest speaker Evangeline Moore, daughter of pioneer civil rights leaders Harry T. Moore and his wife, Harriette, who were killed when a bomb exploded in their home in Mims on Christmas 1951.

About 200 to 300 people attended the event last year, Dan Callaghan said. "It has grown each year, and it's really a lot of fun."

Juneteenth began in Texas, where it has been celebrated as a state holiday on June 19 since 1980.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.

>>If you go

Juneteenth events

Plant City: Juneteenth Culture Fest 2012, noon to 7 p.m. today at Samuel W. Cooper Park, 912 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. R&B, hip-hop and gospel music, dance festival, horse rides for children, fishing and DJ Chase from WBTP-FM 95.7.

Brooksville: Juneteenth Historical Festival, noon to 10 p.m. today, Frederick Kelly Elks Lodge No. 1270, 510 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Historical ceremony with song and dance, youth festival, vendors, food, music, poetry, and health care, jobs and voting information.

Land O'Lakes: Cleanup of Mount Carmel Cemetery on Ehren Cutoff, 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday. Call (813) 312-6345 or (813) 783-6862.

Port Richey: Juneteenth Celebration, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today, former Booker T. Washington School, 6105 Pine Hill Road. Garage sale, health screening, voter registrations, food, karaoke and spoken word. Guest speaker Evangeline Moore, daughter of civil rights leader Harry T. Moore and Harriette Moore.

St. Petersburg: Juneteenth Celebration, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, West St. Petersburg Community Library at St. Petersburg College, 6605 Fifth Ave. N. Learn about Juneteenth and its meaning with Faye Dowdell and make an African drum. There will be prizes and fun for kids.

Big Juneteenth celebration in St. Petersburg takes a pause 06/15/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 15, 2012 9:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Empire' star Grace Byers keynotes USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy luncheon

    Human Interest

    BY AMY SCHERZER

    TAMPA — The first University of South Florida graduate to address the USF's Women in Leadership & Philanthropy supporters, Grace Gealey Byers, class of 2006, centered her speech on her first name, turning it into a verb to share life lessons.

    Grace Byers, University of South Florida Class of 2006, stars on the Fox television show Empire. She delivered the keynote at the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy luncheon Friday. Photo by Amy Scherzer
  2. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other

    News

    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  3. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  4. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  5. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.