Juneteenth celebration comes to Madison Square

Juneteenth celebration comes to Madison Square Juneteenth was celebrated recently at the Madison Square site (SW59 Place and SW64 Street). The event kicked off with a bicycle ride, followed by breakfast, educational programming, live music and a dance contest.

Information about services to the community was offered by healthcare providers, local non-profits, South Miami Police Department, and the CRA of South Miami. Juneteenth commemorates the end of institutionalized slavery for African-Americans.

On June 19, 1865 some 250,000 slaves in the state of Texas learned they were free people. Juneteenth is named for the date that Union general Gordon Granger issued an order in Galveston, Texas informing the people of their freedom as it was issued by The Emancipation Proclamation. From that day forward, the date of June 19 was publicly celebrated with thanksgiving, picnics, barbecues, music festivals (including the singing of the hymn “Lift Every Voice”), and the telling of family history.

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued twice, once on September 22, 1862 in which it was stipulated that if the southern states did not stop rebelling against the Union, the Proclamation would take effect on January 1, 1863. When the Confederacy persisted, the second and final Proclamation was issued. The original intent of the measure was meant to cripple the Confederacy and applied to “rebellious” states and those portions of states not under Union control (Texas and Florida were among them). As slavery was still protected under the Constitution, President Lincoln could not abolish it nationwide. That would be accomplished by the 13th Amendment, passed by Congress in January 1865 and ratified by the states in December 1865: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist with the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Yet many people are unaware that the tradition exists.

“I was surprised to learn how many African-Americans, young and old, didn’t know what Juneteenth was. As the first national holiday for black Americans, I believe we need to celebrate that every year in South Miami,” said Levy Kelly, event organizer, community leader, and CRA board member.

Both celebratory and educational, Mr. Kelly described the local event as one that had little funding, just a lot of volunteer and grass root efforts, plus donations from local businesses (First National Bank of South Miami, South Miami Hospital, Community Newspapers, Carrie Robinson, LLC, and SOMI Charter School) and performers as well as mobile clinics provided by FIU, Miami-Dade County and Humana. Members of the community and the Concerned Clergy and Citizen’s Coalition gave their time to the event. Local elected officials participated in the bike ride and Commissioner Suarez was also in attendance among the estimated 150 people who came to the event throughout the day. As South Miami’s representative to the County, Mr. Suarez took this opportunity to promise about $3 million dollars to the Madison Square project.

“It was a pretty good day, overall,” said Mr. Kelly.

Daisy Harrell, president of the South Miami Alliance for Youth said, “It is important that we know our history and that we understand about the time of slavery and our emancipation.”

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