‘Think Big’ with Commissioner Dorothy ‘Dottie’ Johnson

By Christina Gordon

Members of The South Florida Chapter of Blacks in Government (BIG) at the 2nd Annual Juneteenth Celebration, on Friday, June 18, 2010 at The Rusty Pelican Restaurant.

As one of four original founders of The South Florida Chapter of Blacks In Government (BIG), City of Opa-locka Commissioner Dorothy “Dottie” accepted a proclamation from District One County Commissioner Barbara Jordan during the 2nd Annual Juneteenth Celebration, on Friday, June 18, 2010, from 6 to 11 PM at The Rusty Pelican Restaurant, 3201 Rickenbacker Causeway on Key Biscayne.

A rarely recognized holiday by many African-Americans, according to Ms. Connie Russell in her Reflections, “this 145th anniversary of Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day) is the oldest national commemoration of the abolition of slavery, which occurred on January 1, 1863 with the official signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.” However, news that the enslaved Africans were free did not reach Galveston, Texas until almost two and a half years later, on June 19th, 1865 (Juneteenth), once Major General Gordon Granger and his 2000 Union Soldiers arrived, after becoming strong enough to overcome resistance. Juneteenth is currently celebrated in 35 of the United States.

Guest speaker for the BIG celebration of Juneteenth was Dr. Georgie C. Labadie, a native of Tallahassee, a Florida A&M University graduate and Professor Emerita at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies, Coral Gables FL with a list of other accolades and accomplishments too numerous to mention. In her address, Dr. Labadie maintained there were several purposes for Juneteenth, but she highlighted only the three most important to her, which were Education, Celebration and Agitation. She commented that during Juneteenth, we must receive an Education by returning to our roots. She said, “We must reach back, to gather what the past teaches, in order to move forward to our full potential, which is the foundation for what was lost, forgotten or left out, but can be remembered, reclaimed, revived, reserved and perpetuated.” Labadie continued, “in celebrating Juneteenth, we must remember that it was the day when the last geographic area where slavery legally existed, before they (250, 000 slaves) learned of their freedom in Texas.” And finally, on Juneteenth, she added, “With diplomacy, we should cause Agitation through upsetting, disturbing and arousing interest, by stirring-up people to take a stand.”

According to BIG celebration host Edward B. Harris, “Juneteenth is about Employer-Employee relationships… it was about slave owner and slaves. On Juneteenth ‘the word was heard.’ We must never forget ongoing employee relationships regarding Access, Equity and Inclusion in pursuit of economic empowerment for the African-Americans and other disenfranchised groups of Americans. We must never forget the ravages of slavery and the devastating affect on every aspect of Black existence in this country. We must never forget the strong, the proud, and the irrepressible people that not only survived but prevailed.” Harris said, of today, “Mental slavery goes deep to the core.” Segueing into the significance of “Blacks In Government” as it relates to Juneteenth, Harris said, “BIG is a national response to a need for African-Americans in public service to organize around issues of mutual concern and to use their collective strength to confront workplace and community problems. BIG’s goals essentially are to promote Equity in all aspect of American life, Excellence in public service, and Opportunity for all Americans.”

Organized in 1975 by black Federal Employees in the then Department of Health Education and Welfare in Rockville Maryland, but due to the government-wide problems, BIG was incorporated in 1976 as a National organization of government employees at the Federal, State and local levels, establishing more than 250 chapters across the country.

It was announced that deserving students from three Miami-Dade schools (Homestead, Carol City and Northwestern) will be presented scholarships from this BIG fund raising event. The BIG organization received a Proclamation from Miami- Dade County for its exemplary achievements, commitment to promoting excellence in government service, participation and hosting a variety of events honoring African-American heritage, providing employee support, and for being an advocacy and resource group for Civil Service. In accepting the Proclamation, in behalf of BIG, Commissioner Johnson commented that she was proud to be one of the founding members of “Blacks In Government (S. FL Chapter),” then she recited several lines from her signature poem, by Edgar Albert Guest, “Somebody said that It Couldn’t Be Done,” before closing remarks were given by the President of BIG, Mr. Robert R. Walker.

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