Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Juneteenth organizer writes a book so kids can grasp the special day

Faye Dowdell wrote a book for kids called Juneteenth: For Children, a picture book that tells the story in short, simple sentences.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Faye Dowdell wrote a book for kids called Juneteenth: For Children, a picture book that tells the story in short, simple sentences.

ST. PETERSBURG — Live music, arts and crafts, and an exhibition baseball game to honor the Negro Leagues are on the program for this year's Juneteenth celebration, an annual event commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery.

But to hear Faye Dowdell tell it, the biggest attraction at this year's event is the books.

In the five years that Dowdell has headed the annual celebration, she has handed out picture books to children. The first year, 300 books telling the story of Juneteenth set her back $4,200 — far too much for an event that never has made a profit.

The solution was to write one herself. "History is history — you can't change it," Dowdell said, laughing. "I said, 'I think I can write something a little cheaper.' "

The result was a picture book that tells the story of Juneteenth in short, simple sentences geared toward early readers. Dowdell will give away 300 at this Saturday's event, thanks to a grant from the Early Learning Council.

"It's a very colorful book with the very simplest way of telling what Juneteenth is," she said.

Anthony Ricks, the local artist who illustrated Dowdell's book, said he's excited to see his work published and plans to sell some of his own work at the event.

"It's important — it's part of history," he said. "They don't really teach a lot of this in school."

The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865 — the day Union troops marched into Galveston, Texas, and told slaves living there they were free under the Emancipation Proclamation. Since then, Juneteenth has become a celebration of African-American culture and community.

Dowdell, a former Air Force specialist who turned to volunteer work after a brain injury forced her to leave the military, signed on to organize the city's Juneteenth celebration when the event's previous director quit five years ago, leaving Juneteenth with no funding, no sponsors and almost no chance of survival.

"I heard on the radio that the Juneteenth coordinator had quit and they were canceling Juneteenth," she said. "They don't cancel the Fourth of July — how are they going to cancel Juneteenth?"

Dowdell invested $10,000 of her own money in the project, taking business classes to learn how to keep the organization afloat and writing letters to potential sponsors.

Five years later, the festival is thriving — featuring not only arts and crafts and live entertainment, but community services from housing assistance to job counseling to free health screenings.

"We haven't made a profit for me to get my money back," she said. "But when you see those kid's faces out there, it's all worth it."

Reach Aubrey Whelan at awhelan@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8316.

If you go

Juneteenth of St. Petersburg annual celebration

When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Campbell Park, Gym and Community Center, 601 14th St. S

The event will feature arts and crafts, entertainment and local vendors, plus an exhibition from the traveling African-American museum Sankofa and an exhibition baseball game honoring the Negro Leagues.

Juneteenth organizer writes a book so kids can grasp the special day 06/14/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 4:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival wraps up with Above and Beyond, more at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

    Blogs

    The first numbers trickled in on Sunday, and they didn't look great.

    Louis the Child performed at the Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium on May 28, 2017.
  2. Philippines forces make gains in city under siege by ISIS-linked militants

    MARAWI, Philippines — Philippine forces say they now control most of a southern city where militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a bloody siege nearly a week ago.

  3. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  4. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  5. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.