Black Music Month and Juneteenth festivities fused together in Woodland Park Thursday.
Gainesville Housing Authority’s Strive for Success program’s first annual event drew about 50 people, the majority of attendees being children, and featured a DJ and a live performance from local drummer Kofi Horne.
“Our desires for our residents to not just to feel empowered, but to be empowered,” Freddie Jones, a 25-year-old resident services specialist for Gainesville Housing Authority, said.
The event marked the beginning of the city’s second annual “Journey to Juneteenth” celebrations, which will continue this weekend.
Juneteenth honors June 19, 1865, the day Union General Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation and freed the last slaves in the U.S. in Galveston, Texas. President Joe Biden signed a bill in June 2021 making the day a federal holiday. Gainesville started its monthlong celebration May 20, honoring when Union General Edward McCook read the proclamation that ended slavery in Florida.
Thursday’s event was a part of the Strive for Success program, a grant-awarded, time-sensitive program empowering affordable housing residents to better themselves through education, supportive services, employment and youth services.
“It's going to take work, it's going to take commitment, people are going to want to see and feel and experience change,” Jones said about the program.
Valerie Herring, the 49-year-old owner of B.I.O. Beautiful Inside and Out — a vendor at the event — said it was rewarding to be able to spread mental health awareness while celebrating Black history.
The event made her think about the slaves who didn’t have anyone to help with their mental health struggles. It was an honor to be in a situation where she could help those in need, she said.
Iris Bailey, the mayor of Archer, said future generations need to be properly educated on Black history.
“We need to encourage our kids to pick up books that talk about us,” Bailey said. “We need to know where we come from.”
Juneteenth should be an important day to kids, she said. She hoped a child would speak at the event next year to share what the day means to them.
Gainesville will host a Journey to Juneteenth Freedom Walk at Depot Park Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and a Freedom Fest at Bo Diddley Plaza from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. There is also a Porters Quarters Fish and Chicken Fry at Shady Grove Church from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
On Sunday, 4th Ave Food Park will host a Juneteenth Black Maker’s Market from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the city will hold a grand re-opening of Clarence R. Kelly Center from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
More Juneteenth events can be found on the City of Gainesville's website.
Contact Jackson Reyes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JacksnReyes.
Jackson Reyes is a third-year journalism major and one of the assistant sports editors for the Spring 2023 semester. In his free time, he enjoys collecting records, long walks on the beach and tweeting about Caleb Williams.