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Juneteenth has music, stories

Breakfast with a state senator, gospel music and a Family Fun Day are among the activities set to recognize Juneteenth today and Saturday.

The second annual Juneteenth Freedom Day Celebration commemorates the day when black slaves in Florida and other Southern states were notified of the Emancipation Proclamation.

"It was an excellent event last year," said Tyna Middleton, president of the African-American Arts Council of Greater Tampa Bay, which is a sponsor of the event. "We have more vendors, and I think this year will be even better."

Throughout the country, Juneteenth is observed on different dates because enforcement of the slaves' liberation would come only after the defeat of local Confederate forces. The message reached Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. The holiday began in Texas but has spread to other states.

The state of Florida officially recognized Juneteenth as a legal holiday Oct. 1, 1991.

"This event is the oldest and one of the largest celebrations in the African-American community," said Stephanie Wilson, a Juneteenth organizer. "We want this event to rival the size of the one being held in Texas."

The Juneteenth Freedom Day breakfast, with guest speaker state Sen. James Hargrett, D-Tampa, will be at 7:30 a.m. today at the Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th St. S, St. Petersburg. Tickets are $7.

Hargrett represents Senate District 21, which meanders through Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk and Manatee counties. It includes parts of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Bradenton, Plant City, Lakeland, Winter Haven and Bartow. He became the first black person from the Tampa Bay area elected to the state Senate when he won the race in 1992.

The celebration will continue with a gospel concert at 7 p.m. at Bethel Community Baptist Church, 1045 16th St. S, St. Petersburg. Gospel singers and groups from the Tampa Bay area will perform.

A Family Fun Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday will feature music, food, games for children and African-American vendors. The event will be on the grounds of the Campbell Park Recreation Center, 601 14th St. S, St. Petersburg.

Entertainment will include bands, storytelling, speeches and dancers.

No coolers or alcoholic beverages are allowed on the park grounds. The concert and Family Fun Day are free.

The festivities are sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, the city of St. Petersburg, radio stations WRXB-AM 1590 and WTMP-AM 1150, and the African-American Arts Council of Greater Tampa Bay. For information, call 893-7134 or 323-7004.

_ Information from Times files was used in this story.