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Event celebrates slaves' freedom

Rain beats a leopard's skin, but it does not wash out the spots. (Proverb from the Ashanti)

When President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation became effective Jan. 1, 1863, it ended chattel slavery in certain areas of the country, but in Florida and other parts of the South the word was not received until around June 19, 1865 _ more than two years later.

The African people celebrated the day the word of their freedom arrived with much excitement and joy, which dispels the myth that they enjoyed being slaves. They named this all-important day "Juneteenth Day," and it is considered the real independence day for African-Americans in this country.

In 1991 the Florida Legislature designated June 19th a legal holiday, and it is celebrated all over the state and elsewhere with parades, fireworks, festivals and concerts.

St. Petersburg is no different. Juneteenth National Freedom Day will be celebrated over a two-day period. Starting at 7:30 a.m. Friday, there will be a breakfast at the Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S, with state Sen. James T. Hargrett, D-Tampa, as the guest speaker. For ticket information, call 893-7134.

Bethel Community Baptist Church, at 1045 16th Street S, will sponsor a gospel concert starting at 7 p.m. Friday, with singers and groups from all over the Tampa Bay area. Everyone should try to come early to get good seats. This event is free and open to the public.

Then, on Saturday, like last year, Campbell Park will be full of entertainment, griots, vendors and games for the children as we continue celebrating our ancestral independence day. The festivities will be from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. No coolers or alcoholic beverages are allowed in the park. The festivities are free and open to the public. Harambee!

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