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Juneteenth celebrated in Gadsden County

The Juneteenth Unity Celebration was held for the Juneteenth National Holiday in the Gadsden County Courthouse Square. The event included a few speakers, the recognition of citizens who have duly devoted themselves to Gadsden County development, and the display of a newly installed art exhibition at Bwembya’s Market.

It was held in partnership with Stallworth & Associates Global, Mother Care Network, the City of Quincy, Faith in Florida, and the Gadsden Interfaith Council. Local DJ Lamar Thomas was the musician on-site during the Unity celebration.
Two anthems were sung by LaMorris McSwain, who in his renditions hoped to “invoke the spirit of God.”

The event began sharply at 10 a.m. with a few words from local county leaders.

Speeches were many and included historical reflections and reflections of people and places in Gadsden County. The celebration included views from business owners, representatives, and citizens describing their hopes for the future of Gadsden County, and their relations with the land and its development, both current and historical. Many expressed their desire to see an installation of more historical markers in Gadsden.

“Where Captain D’s here in Quincy is currently located, we had our first Black Hospital,” said Tracey Stallworth, of Stallworth & Associates Global.
“It existed due to segregation, and if we had more of a history of ourselves and the history of our county, which is now coming to light with archival studies, we wouldn’t have made the sale and demolished such a historical

landmark in Gadsden.”
Stallworth also elaborated on the need for activism and collective unity in understanding the challenges that the Black and African-American communities currently face today, such as those with how Black History is being described in the Florida legislature.
“If we cannot be represented with our own people, whose ancestors have lived the struggle and fought for our emancipation, then neither should our history,” said Stallworth.

County Commissioner Brenda Holt also spoke at length about Florida’s local history, including that of Prospect Bluff in.
“Fort Gadsden, as it is known, was once previously known as Fort Negro, due to the corps mostly consisting of those brave souls who fought against Andrew Jackson’s campaign in Florida to further subjugate African Americans.”
Having been at Prospect Bluff a few weeks prior to the Juneteenth Unity Celebration, Commissioner Holt was glad to bring to light these previous attempts at resistance by Black Americans and Black Seminoles, the

latter an interracial ethnic group consisting of Native American and African ancestry.
“We need to be abreast our history, we simply must place an emphasis on learning our history outside of the Florida School System, and we need to acknowledge people as the people they are and history not as a distant relic. One of the biggest struggles we face is underrepresentation of our history on a local and national scale which further advances the need for a great education.”

The Unity Celebration then segued into its final part – the Awards Ceremony. This ceremony was done with the assistance of The Juneteenth Committee. Awards made of glass were given to the following Gadsden residents: County Commissioner Brenda Holt, Christopher “DJ Trucker” Holt, Sarlentia Holt, DJ Lamar Thomas, Stacey Hannigon, and Ny’Sherica O’Neal who is a recent graduate and student leader of Gadsden County High School.

Concurrently, an exhibit was presented at Bwembya’s Market featuring abstract and ancestral art. The two artists featured for the Juneteenth Exhibit were Ringo Brian Chileshe and Gloria Nicholson.
“I have been painting now for, oh, about five to six years, and my focus mostly lies on history, through ceramics and mixed media,” said Nicholson, who originates from New York City.

Her clay art series “The Ancestors” is an explicit call to the links between yesteryear, the shared yearning for a more perfect future, and sacrifices of many who long have labored for it.
“I focus on faces and hair, and mostly through found items which then I incorporate into my artworks, and the thematic elements which associatively find their way into my art: I call it “ancestral” art.” Types of artworks on display at Bwembya’s Market during the Juneteenth Art Exhibit (June 15 – June 30) included paintings, clay, ceramics, incorporations of glass and metal, portraits, and larger abstract pieces through the store.

“I think Juneteenth is a wonderful holiday and commemorates nationally a pivotal moment in American History, the emancipation of African-Americans,” said Kena Bwembya, co-owner of Bwembya’s Market. “Ringo Brian reached out to us and expressing interest in displaying artworks, and we, of course, loved his works, which are suited for Juneteenth, especially their expressions of freedom. Gloria Nicholson is a pivotal pillar of the Tallahassee art community and is a wonderous friend to us with her support for all of our showings. We have been appreciative of her, and wanted to exhibit her works.”

The Juneteenth Unity Celebration commemorations ended around noon, but the event formally ended at 2 p.m.

Ruben Dario Uribe – Gadsden County News Service