Valdosta Daily Times

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June 19, 2014

Boosters celebrate Juneteenth

VALDOSTA — On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger came to Galveston, Texas, with the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were free. In honor of this historic day, the celebration known as Juneteenth was created.

For 22 years, the Southside Library Boosters have hosted the annual Juneteenth Celebration, with a special dinner as the kick-off event.

To kick off the 2014 celebration, the celebration dinner was held Tuesday night.

The program included several performances and special song selections. The Family of Aya Community Rhythm Movement Organization performed two authentic African-style dances. As for songs, Renee McKinnon performed a solo while the Juneteenth Mass Choir performed three separate selections.

The featured speaker for the evening was Elder Edward D. Mack.

Mack is a graduate of Lowndes High School, who earned his bachelor’s from the University of Central Florida and his master’s from Ashford University. He helped found New Destiny Temple of Deliverance.

Mack’s message focused on three points. “I’m going to talk about the journey of where we began, where we are today and where we have to go.”

As for where African-Americans began, he spoke about the history of Juneteenth. He then moved onto where they are today.

“We need the world to stop focusing on how much we are tweaking or how many people we are shooting. These are not the real issues we face. We need to focus on the condition of where our people are,” said Mack.

“We need our counterparts to understand that we are more than a choir or a man with a mic. We can raise our children; we can change our community. We account for more than half of the population in the city, but the problem is that we hardly own anything. And we won’t go to board meetings for it. We are the heartbeat of Valdosta. Valdosta was built on the backs of our ancestors, but regardless of where we are now, we are no better than where we were in 1865.”

He spoke of the importance of power economics and compared life to a game of Monopoly.

“We can’t play the game if we don’t have money. Integration didn’t help us; we didn’t want to go to school with them. We wanted the money. It’s not about color, it’s about money. Go out and start businesses and get your licenses. Do what you’ve got to do. We have to create and produce,” said Mack.

Near the conclusion of his speech, he focused on encouraging words of community power.

“Please raise your right hand in the air. Now ball it into a fist. I’ve been told that when a large group of black people raise their right hands in the air like this it makes white men uncomfortable.”

The dinner concluded with special presentations to both Mack and Evelyn Ford. Ford is the only surviving founder of the Southside Boosters, according to organizers.

To conclude the Juneteenth celebration, Southside Boosters will hold a Community Awareness Day Saturday, June 21. The event will be from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. with opening ceremonies beginning at 11 a.m. The event will be held at the Lowndes County Courthouse Square in Downtown Valdosta.

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