Juneteenth, now a federal holiday, is celebrated in DeLand
DELAND — For the first time, Juneteenth National Independence Day was an official federal holiday on Saturday.
For the 400 or so people who gathered at Earl Brown Park in DeLand, it was a celebration mixed with an educational twist that included help on how to navigate Florida's new voting law.
The Juneteenth Unity in the Community Celebration included citizens, church leaders, singers, and more than 50 vendors. Sister Build Network for Girls, Man Up Mentoring Programs, Cameron Enterprises and Kinks, Coils and Waves hosted the event.
Among those participating were the DeLand Police Department, Mainstreet Deland Association, Black Homeschoolers of Central Florida, and The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia. Food vendors included Big Dog Bar-B-Que, Wing It to the Bone and Forever Snowie.
Juneteenth marks the date in 1865 when Black slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally informed that they were free. On Friday, President Joe Biden signed legislation making June 19 a federal holiday.
Primrose Cameron, founder of Sisters Build Network for Girls Incorporated and Cameron Enterprises, said it’s important for communities to celebrate Juneteenth together.
“I share with folks that our past often hurts us but it can also work towards healing us,” said Cameron. “Now we have the opportunity to heal. But we can't do that alone. We have to come together as a community. Unity is important in our community. It’s important to hold this event with all folks.”
Cameron said the day is also an opportunity to educate the community.
“Kids must know their past, know their history,” said Cameron. “People of color lost their lives.
"So much of what was done got us here and that’s so important. And to add on the fact that now Juneteenth will be a federal holiday, recognizing it means other people thought it was important, too."
Cameron is hopeful that the takeaway from attending such an event will be that coming together as a community is key.
“We can’t learn everything there is to know about the history of Juneteenth from one celebration,” said Cameron. “What I hope folks take away is that we have to work hand in hand to make this world right. I hope people take away that we shouldn’t walk past each other and not speak. We shouldn’t walk past those in need and not help. I hope that folks stay connected and understand that we have to come together.”
She stressed that Juneteenth is for everyone.
“This is not a Black holiday,” she said. “It is actually a recognition of people who have poured into our nation time and time again. People who have lost their lives for this nation. People who were finally free in 1865. So it is not a Black holiday. It’s an 'all' holiday."
Juneteenth becoming a national holiday 'near and dear to my heart'
Kimeca Caine, one of the sponsors for the Deland Juneteenth Celebration, said Juneteenth becoming a nationally recognized holiday is a monumental moment.
“This is near and dear to my heart and it should be to everyone’s heart,” said Caine. “This is something that should have been done a long time ago. I had to be part of this event.
“My brand is about Black people loving themselves, and loving each other so we can do better,” said Caine, owner of Kinks, Coils and Waves natural hair products. “We’re doing good, but we can always do better.”
Caine, a hair care professional for 15 years, is also an inventor. She created a shea butter for natural hair to help maintain and keep both hair and scalp healthy. She’s also the author of a children’s book, “I Love My Kinks, Coils and Waves.” She said representation matters and her book encourages young girls to love themselves and their hair.
“I have a lot of clients who are kids,” said Caine. “A lot of the parents struggle with maintaining their hair. Young girls often turn to Instagram looking at images that don’t represent them.
"When my son was younger, all of his books, even in school, didn’t have anybody with brown skin that looked like him. So I wanted to have a book that offers positive representation for kids and teens of themselves and their hair.”
Genesis Robinson, Volusia County organizer for Equal Ground Education, used the event and day to help people understand how to ensure they can vote in Florida.
“We're here first and foremost because we recognize the importance of Juneteenth and the fact that this is a moment for us to come and celebrate freedom,” said Robinson. “But we also recognize that since slavery has ended there have been many systematic forces that have sought to oppress marginalized communities."
Robinson said Equal Ground Education is focused on the HB 1 and SB 90.
HB1, which Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis championed, adds penalties for crimes committed during riots; critics contend the law is designed to curtail Black Lives Matter protests, all of which were peaceful in Volusia County.
SB 90, which DeSantis and Republican legislators also supported, placed new limits on voter registration, mail-in voting and drop boxes. Critics have decried it as a voter-suppression bill in a state where no significant voter fraud occurred in 2020.
"Last year we saw oppressive laws sought to limit the right for free speech and sought to restrict access to voting as it relates to people being able to vote by mail," said Robinson. "So we're here to make the community aware of a lot of these changes that have taken place and also equip folks with the tools to join us in the fight.”
Robinson said educating the community is priority.
“I totally get how it can be frustrating and folks can feel this sense of nothing's changing,” he said. “But in terms of what we can do to prepare I think it's just a matter of education. If you know someone that relies on vote by mail, let them know that they have to make a new request. Before you were grandfathered in, where if you made a request, it was good for two years. They've changed that. So now you have to make a request every single year. It's just another form of disenfranchisement."
Vickie Heath, a DeLand resident, said turning Juneteenth into a federal holiday was long overdue.
“This event is epic for me and we've been waiting for this for a long time,” said Heath. “We’ve waited a long time to get this passed in remembrance of what happened back in the day. So we’re excited. I just wish more people would be here. Especially the younger children. So they can learn from this. Since they made it a federal holiday we can grow it and make it even bigger.”
Alicia Monroe, also a DeLand resident, said it’s beyond time for Black people to be more recognized.
“This is something great to have in our community,” said Monroe. “We still have so far to go. We know that because of what’s going on in the world. But as my husband Robert was saying, we have to take small bites of the pie. We can't eat the whole pie. Be thankful for this event and let's celebrate it and move on to the next thing that comes our way.”
Source: The Daytona Beach News-Journal