BROOKSVILLE — Organizers of the local Juneteenth Festival, traditionally a celebration of African-American history and freedom from slavery, want to branch out this year and include the county's sizable Latino and Caribbean communities.
"We think that everybody's culture is important," explained Paul Boston, chairman of the sponsoring JUSTUS Inc., a mainly black south Brooksville organization dedicated to advancing community relations and urging residents to become involved in making improvements in the neighborhood.
All ethnic groups deserve an opportunity to showcase their history, Boston said, so the festival has invited others to put their heritage on stage and to staff educational booths, showing not only their roots, but also what they provide to Hernando County's culture.
The festival, planned for June 18-20 at Russell Street Park in Brooksville, is marked every other year in Hernando County. One year it centers on music; the next time on education, awareness and services. This year, it will feature both.
"The festival is learning about yourself," Boston said.
Set amid the park's shaded landscape will be a trail covering the stages of slavery: a makeshift African village, a replica of a slave ship revealing quarters below deck, chain gangs of slaves being auctioned, plantation life under harsh masters, life on the run, punishment for those who escaped and were recaptured, runaway routes, those who helped slaves find their way North and, finally, freedom.
Each stage will feature native attire and native and gospel music.
More organizations are needed to help with the staging, Boston said.
And there will be plenty of food, he said.
"There's a rich heritage in food," Boston said, pointing out that barbecued ribs and chicken will be available, prepared by the Frederick Kelly Elks Lodge. Area churches will be among the food vendors as well.
June 19, designated Teen Health Awareness Day, will include health screenings and information on health issues.
A jazz concert will highlight Father's Day, June 20.
Throughout the festival, storytellers, poets and readers of history will appear.
If additional funding can be obtained, organizers hope to set up recreational activities for children.
Sponsorships are needed, Boston said, from a grass roots donation of $100 in merchandise or money to $5,000 for a gold sponsorship.
Prospective donors and participants may contact Boston at (352) 797-5451 or visit the JUSTUS website: www.justus.web.officelive.com.
Beth Gray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.