Sewickley holds Juneteenth celebration

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Sewickley held its 3rd Annual Juneteenth “Free to be Me” celebration at the Sewickley Community Center.

Juneteenth, known as Freedom Day, commemorates the events that took place on June 18, 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take possession of the confederate state and enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.

HISTORY PRESENTATION—Marlene Bransom, president of the Afro-American Genealogy and Historical Society, gives a presentation at the event. (Photo by Nikki Coffee Denton)HISTORY PRESENTATION—Marlene Bransom, president of the Afro-American Genealogy and Historical Society, gives a presentation at the event. (Photo by Nikki Coffee Denton)

On June 19, 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger read the contents of General Order No. 3 on the steps of Ashton Villa informing the people of Texas that all slaves were to be freed. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 it could not be enforced until the war was won by the North. As each southern state failed to the northern forces slaves were freed, with Texas believed to be the last. General Robert E. Lee, head of the southern army, surrendered on April 1865.

Juneteenth is celebrated because it is noted by most historians as the last state to fall to the North, which led to the slaves being the last to be freed.

The family event, hosted by the Sewickley Community Center in conjunction with the Walter Robinson Legion Post 450, included live art with Blake Irwin, a panel discussion on the movie “The Help,” a re-enactment of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, gospel performances, a historical lesson/tribute to the Tuskegee Airman by Regis Bobonis, guided drumming circle with Janelle Burdell and Phillip Harris, and soul line dancing with Roland Ford.

The United States Colored Troupes Drum Core Youth Re-enactment group from the Education department at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall donned Union Soldier costumes, as they led the procession from the Sewickley Community Center across the street to the front of the 90 year old Legion building where the re-enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation reading was held.

The lively panel discussion called “The Help: Who’s Story Is It?” was based on Kathryn Stockett’s novel-turned-movie “The Help.” The discussion drew a crowd of about 100 people. Jonell Henry, an associate producer with C-Span, served as the discussion moderator. Panelists included Terry Bradford, president of the Daniel B. Matthews Historical Society; Harley Skorpenske, recent Quaker Valley graduate; Betty Douglas, local artist, singer and poet; and Lee Berry, local business owner.

Event organizers, Autum Redcross and Geronimo Pratt, wanted to have something for everyone and wanted to keep the historical significance in the celebration. “It’s a community event for everyone. This is a historical celebration and chance to bring everyone together,” Redcross said.

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