It was in Texas, in the city of Galveston.
It was 1865 and although the Emancipation Proclamation was two and a half years old, slavery was still in effect.
And then one day, it wasn’t.
That day was June 19, 1865. This week, Juneteenth celebrations across the country both celebrated the day and remember what came before it and on Saturday, Valdosta’s own Juneteenth celebration was under way.
For Ashley Emanuel, a speech communications student at Valdosta State University, the celebration stands for many things.
“It’s about self-empowerment and unity in the community,” said Emanuel. “But it’s also about highlighting the services that are available in the community.”
And the services that are available in our community were out in force, from health related groups like the Red Cross, to groups concerned with education, like Georgia Military College, the Southside Library Boosters and the Literacy Volunteer Program of South Ga., Inc., to non-profits that work in the community, such as The Haven and Habitat for Humanity.
“We want to inform the community about what we do,” said Temiko Thompson, a volunteer with the Red Cross.
“And being in the middle of hurricane season, we want them to know what they can do to be prepared.”
“When you were preparing to come down here, did you ask yourselves why?” asked Beverley Richardson-Blake, Chair of the 2013 Juneteenth Committee. “Because of the purpose. That should be your key reason. When the news came on that June 19 that slavery had been abolished, how do you think they felt? Relieved? Happy? Sad ... or scared, perhaps?”
Richardson-Blake drew parallels between those men and women who were suddenly faced with their freedom.
She encouraged attendees to take care of themselves, their health and their education, their present and their future.
It was in Texas, in the city of Galveston.
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