Thursday, December 24, 2009

Emancipation Day 2010

January 1, Friday from 10AM till Noon
The St. Pete NAACP Branch will host an Annual Emancipation Day Celebration
"Continuing Our Legacy, Bold Dreams Speak Victories,"
Bethel Community Baptist Church
2901 54th Ave. So. in St. Pete

``On the first day of January 1863 all persons held as slaves within any state shall be thenceforth and forever free,`` said the Emancipation Proclamation.

Emancipation Day has been commemorated in our community on New Year's Day by the NAACP and the Council on Human Relations in various churches. Years ago we had older participants who grew up with former slaves, their great grandparents. Now they are not here to tell their story and we must learn this history from books.

Washington, D.C. celebrates April 16 as Emancipation Day. That day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act. This Act freed enslaved persons nine months before the more famous Emancipation Proclamation.

Two years ago Mayor Anthony Williams signed legislation making Emancipation Day an official public holiday in the District. Wikipedia reports that the Emancipation Day celebration was held yearly from 1866 to 1901, and was just resumed in 2002.

Emancipation Day has long been celebrated in Texas, where it is known as Juneteenth. St. Pete has had one of the biggest and best Juneteenth celebrations.

The emancipation proclamation freed slaves only in states that were in rebellion and, Juneteenth celebrates the day much later that the slaves learned they were free.

Here is an account of last years ceremony from community activist Norm Bungard.

I attended an inspiring event that took place at the Lakewood United Church of Christ, on New Year's Day. The annual (we think it was the thirtieth) Emancipation Proclamation Service emceed by Elder Martin Rainey, First President, and Trenia L. Cox, Second President, of the St Petersburg Branch of the NAACP was very inspiring. There were political leaders; ministers; NAACP state and local leaders present and each had an opportunity to share the past, present and future of Race Relations.

I first became a member of this branch a L O N G time ago when Morris Milton was President and Myrna Gemmer and her late husband Dr Bob were the educational chairs. I certainly learned a lot about the movement, which I have supported since the sixties. It was probably 26 or so years ago that I head Morris speak at the Princess Martha Hotel. He was a real orator, the greatest I have ever heard. He lifted us out of our seats.

There were two highlights I want to share. One was the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by a teen who has such a strong and beautiful voice that it added to the words in an eloquent manner. Her name is Kalima Haneef and I hope at some future point you will get to hear her or see her. She is a leader and I feel certain we will hear more from her in future years.

The second highlight was from a Minister (all ministers were inspiring; as were all speakers). Frank Peterman introduced Rev Joe Tucker of the 5th Avenue Church of Christ. We had heard from speakers who called attention to the low graduation rate in Pinellas for all students, black students in particular, and how we collectively need to fix that. Rev Tucker's thundering comment that I will recall is this: The answer to our problems is not in the White House; it's in your house.

There is much to digest and you may agree or disagree. I personally believe it's in both houses and everywhere in between. His point was that proper parenting is the most important.
My best to each of us for a new year filled with hope for improved relations among everyone.
Norm Bungard

Credit: "Memory for the slaves" by Clara Sornas, at the former auction square in front of the now Anglican Church , Zanzibar, Tanzania. Photo by Farl, Cebu, Philippines, some rights reserved.


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