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Several Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth This Week

June 16, 2008

By Jeff Kunerth, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.

Jun. 16–As part of its Juneteenth celebration, Orlando’s Association to Preserve African American Society, History and Tradition Inc. (PAST) will host a range of activities this week from museum exhibits to a health fair and music festival.

Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, were the last to learn that the Civil War was over, slavery was dead, and they were free. In recent years, the celebration has become a time for blacks to reflect on freedom and African-American history.

*The events begin Thursday with a 6:30 p.m. reception and the unveiling of a new exhibit at the Wells’Built Museum of African American History and Culture at 511 W. South St., Orlando.

The museum’s new exhibit “Treading Our Path” traces the black journey in Florida from the first African-American to step foot in the state in 1527, through the blacks who were assimilated into the Seminole Indian tribe, to the origins of the black community in Orlando.

“It chronicles the battles fought for freedom, which is what Juneteenth is all about,” said state Rep. Geraldine Thompson, board president of PAST and director of the Wells’Built.

*On Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., there will be a Juneteenth Quiz Bowl for high-school students at the John H. Jackson Community Center, 1002 Carter St., Orlando.

*On Saturday, the Juneteenth Music Festival and Celebration at Lake Eola Park starts at 10 a.m. with a step-team and dance exhibition. At the same time, a free health fair will begin, offering blood-pressure, diabetes and HIV/AIDS screenings.

The free music festival begins at 2 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m., featuring the Barkays — the surviving members of Otis Redding’s backup group — and Lenny Williams, former lead singer of the R&B group Tower of Power.

Jeff Kunerth can be reached at 407-420-5392 or jkunerth@orlandosentinel.com.

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