Juneteenth celebrations teeming with activity across South Florida

Ramona Alleyne-Young beamed with pride Saturday afternoon as she soaked up the education and entertainment at the Juneteenth celebration at Sara Sims Park in Boynton Beach.

She summed up what Juneteenth meant to her in one succinct statement.

“Freedom,” said Alleyne-Young, the Boynton Beach resident who was attending the event with her friend, Mona Cushnie.

“It’s a step in the right direction to educate those that have no knowledge.”

Throughout South Florida, from Tamarac to Boynton Beach to Fort Lauderdale, residents acknowledged and celebrated Juneteenth, which recognizes June 19, 1865, as the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to tell slaves they’d been freed — two and half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

This is the first year Juneteenth has been celebrated as a federal holiday. President Biden signed it into law Thursday, making it the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Sara Sims Park in Boynton Beach was one of many places hosting Juneteenth events Saturday in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Sara Sims Park in Boynton Beach was one of many places hosting Juneteenth events Saturday in Broward and Palm Beach counties. (Mike Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Hyppolite Rootchel, a 31-year-old Lake Worth resident and hip-hop artist, was one of Saturday’s performers at Sara Sims Park. Rootchel, a Haitian native who has been in the United States for 20 years, said he didn’t know much about Juneteenth until recently.

“I know the history of my people,” he said. “This is good to know.”

The ChevyD TV Foundation, which helps bring technology such as laptop computers and tablets to citizens, sponsored the Boynton Beach event. Its founder, Darryl Sanders, 37, of Boynton Beach, said he only learned about Juneteenth last year.

He said he wants to do a Juneteenth event every year.

“Hopefully we can make it a city[-sponsored] event next year,” Sanders said.

When Marjorie Jerome saw on Facebook the City of Tamarac was hosting a Juneteenth celebration, she notified her friend, Samar Alghtany, and they decided to drive from their homes in Plantation to Saturday’s event at Tamarac’s Caporella Park.

“I like to see traditions and other cultures, and I like to know history,” said Alghtany, who is from Saudi Arabia.

Faith Wright, a 25-year-old Boynton Beach resident, sang the national anthem at Tamarac’s Juneteenth Story Time Extravaganza, which also featured storytelling, dance, poetry, education, face painting, and food.

Wright said it was an honor to sing on such a special day.

“It means a lot because with everything going on in the world it makes me happy we’re actually observing this holiday,” she said.

Wright, a classically trained singer who attended Shenandoah (Va.) University, said she was more nervous Saturday than at other appearances. But it was a thrill.

“It was an honor and a very humbling experience,” she said.

Over at Joseph Carter Park in Fort Lauderdale hundreds gathered for food, education, music and business opportunities. The event was sponsored by The Wiggins Agency, The Old Dillard Foundation, Florida Power & Light, the Housing Authority of The City of Fort Lauderdale, and the Florida Panthers.

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Elder Paul, a 52-year-old Coral Springs resident, works with Boyz to Men, a Fort Lauderdale group that assists young Black kids become responsible men. He said he signed up two new members Saturday at Joseph Carter Park.

“We’re here to try to give them a doorway to see things in a better light,” he said. “As long as they keep coming, we’ll keep accepting.”

Derek T. Davis, president of Trailblazers of Broward County, which preserves and shares local Black history, related the story of Florida Emancipation Day.

There’s an annual celebration in Tallahassee that recognizes May 20, 1865, as the day a union army general announced Florida slaves were free, about a month before the Texas announcement.

Positivity and pride were the common threads at the Juneteenth events all over South Florida, and just as importantly there as a sense of commitment and resolve to hold such events again.

“We’re going to be here every year,” Sanders said.

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