Sunday, June 18, 2000

Festival celebrates slaves' freedom

Art, dancing highlight annual Juneteenth event

By Mara H. Gottfried
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        With feet stomping and arms waving brightly colored scarves, Alicia Wise performed the West African “Welcoming Dance” against the gray sky in Eden Park on Saturday.

        She was wearing a red-and-gold Senegalese outfit as she celebrated her heritage during the 13th annual Juneteenth Festival.

(Luis Sanchez photo)
| ZOOM |
        Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 — the date when the Emancipation Proclamation was reissued in Galveston, Texas. It was the last state to recognize the proclamation that freed slaves, made two years earlier by President Lincoln.

        “This day is a celebration of freedom, and freedom is definitely something to celebrate,” said Ms. Wise, a dance instructor with Essence of Africa International of Evanston.

        People gathered at Mirror Lake to shop for ethnic art, jewelry and clothing or visit a health screening booth, among other informational stations.

        Charles Jones, owner of Zerubbabel's in Over-the-Rhine, was selling essential oils, art and jewelry.

        “What I like about this event is that the large corporations that usually underwrite African-American events aren't here, because they can ruin the meaning,” he said. “It's a much poorer event, but the spirit is much richer.”

        Though some people there might not have known what Juneteenth symbolized, event organizer Lydia Morgan said the meaning is clear to her.

        “If we can celebrate the end of slavery, then it means that we are still moving forward to value people as a whole,” she said.


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