Daytona Beach officials celebrate Juneteenth with ceremony at City Hall
Updated: Jun 21, 2021
DAYTONA BEACH — The COVID-19 pandemic may have temporarily halted the big weekend Juneteenth celebrations that have been held for years. But it did not keep city officials, church leaders and community activists from marking the event in a meaningful way.
About 40 men, women and children gathered on the steps of City Hall to celebrate Juneteenth with a ceremony on Wednesday that included music and speeches. The actual date of Juneteenth is June 19.
“Juneteenth, like all things in our community, has been under attack,” said Mayor Derrick Henry. “Our traditions, culture, and values have all been under attack. But Juneteenth in Daytona Beach will not wither away. That’s largely because of (Juneteenth Chair) Linda McGhee and her team work feverishly to keep it front and center. I am truly appreciative of the ecumenical and eclectic expressions that have been brought before us today to represent the diversity of our community.”
For those not familiar with Juneteenth's roots, here's a short primer:
On June 19, 1865 — two months after the end of the Civil War — Union General Gordon Granger reached Galveston, Texas, and read the Emancipation Proclamation that belatedly brought about the freeing of 250,000 slaves in that state. News of freedom reached slaves gradually as individual plantation owners read the Proclamation to their bondsmen over the months following the end of the war. Large celebrations began on June 19, 1866. The celebration of that day was referred to as Juneteenth.
The day has also been called Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Liberation Day. At Wednesday's event, speakers included former Circuit Judge Hubert L. Grimes, state Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, Volusia County NAACP President Cynthia Slater and Daytona Beach City Manager Deric Feacher.
Henry spoke to the intimate crowd about the significance of Juneteenth, which appears to have the support to become a federally recognized national holiday. The U.S. Senate passed a unanimous resolution on Tuesday to establish June 19 as a U.S. holiday commemorating the end of slavery. The bill must still clear the House and be signed by President Joe Biden.
“It is my humble and esteemed honor to acknowledge this is Juneteenth, Independence Day," Henry said, reading from a proclamation. "It is an important and enriching part of our country's history and heritage."
Juneteenth "a reaffirmation of freedom"
The News-Journal also reached out to members of the Daytona Beach community to get their thoughts about the significance of Juneteenth.
Genesis Robinson, regional coordinator for Equal Ground Education, (a political non-profit based out of Orlando) said Juneteenth needs to be celebrated because it’s a recognition of freedom.
“In many respects, it’s a reaffirmation of freedom,” said Robinson, chair of the legislative committee for Volusia County African American Leadership Council. "With everything that's going on we should take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate the fact that we are free and we deserve to be free.”
Robinson said it’s also a chance for African-Americans to remind themselves that they are not less than anyone else.
“I think it's an opportunity for us to reaffirm that to ourselves,” said Robinson. “Oftentimes we’re in spaces where we feel like we're second-class citizens. So really Juneteenth is a reminder of the fact that we are free.”
Robinson said Juneteenth isn’t just another day to take off from work.
“I think folks have to realize what it is that we're celebrating,” said Robinson. “Juneteenth symbolizes the end of one of the most horrific and heinous institutions that this country has ever seen, which is slavery. It’s very important to recognize when slavery came to an end.”
Dyrell Johnson, who also is known as Rell Black and is director and founder of Community Healing Project, said Juneteenth is probably one of the most important celebrations in the community.
“It shows that even though documentation was put in place most of our ancestors were still treated like cattle,” said Black. “We were literally slaves to other humans right here in this country. The Emancipation Proclamation did its part on a political scale. But in all actuality the states weren’t in agreement. Juneteenth, along with other holidays where we celebrate our culture and celebrate ourselves, need to be promoted and recognized as national holidays.” Shelley Ragsdale, president of the Flagler County Branch of the NAACP, said Juneteenth should be a day of education.
“It should be a day of enlightenment,” said Ragsdale. “People need to understand what has transpired in this country. Juneteenth is a day that we need to recognize.” Daytona Beach City Manager Deric Feacher said Juneteenth is symbolic of the liberation of a people who gave so much to the country we have all come to love.
“I think the celebration and understanding of what took place many years ago is something that we should reflect on and make sure it never happens again to any race of people,” said Feacher.
Source: The Daytona Beach News-Journal