ST. LEONARD, Md. – In the year 1619, the first slave ship to arrive in America, the White Lion, landed in Hampton, Virginia, bringing 20-30 enslaved Africans.
Over the following centuries, thousands more were brought to America to serve under the oppressive heel of slavery, forced to work long hours on plantation fields, facing beatings or worse if they failed or refused.
Finally, on June 19th, 1865, two months after the defeat of the pro-slavery Confederacy, all black Americans were officially freed from the shackles of slavery when Union General Gordon Granger transmitted the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation to the South.
Six months later, the 13th Amendment was ratified, ending slavery for good in the USA.
On June 17th, 2021, President Joe Biden would sign the bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
On June 18th, the Calvert County NAACP held a festival to celebrate this holiday of freedom and liberation.
“I’ve heard some refer to it as the second 4th of July, this holiday is proof that people were freed from the bondage of slavery and it is a good time to reflect on the past and get people together to celebrate this occasion.”, said Michael Hawkins, treasurer of the Calvert County NAACP.
People from all over Calvert County came to celebrate this grand occasion with the NAACP, whether they were guests, vendors, artists, political candidates, or food truck drivers.
The event started with an opening ceremony featuring a performance of the Negro National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.
Following that was a recognition of notable guests at the festivities. These guests included former Calvert County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Daniel Curry, Board of Education Candidate Tracy McGuire, Commissioner Candidates Kelly McConkey, Steve Jones, and several others.
Other events included a magic act performed by Reggie Rice, a classic car show, a talent show, a petting zoo, and a tribute to veterans who have served this country.
Of course, there was no shortage of vendors at the festival. There were all kinds of organizations set up all over the festival grounds advertising black-owned businesses, education, history, political campaigns, and a variety of services and causes.
Some standouts included the Concerned Black Women of Calvert County, an organization dedicated to the uplifting of black women across Calvert.
When asked about what the event meant to them personally, the organization’s president Sylvia Parker replied, “We are representing our community and we are celebrating the freedoms that people like us were not originally given.”
There were several educational booths set up as well, one of the more notable ones being HIPPY/Healthy Families.
As part of HIPPY USA, Healthy Families works to build healthier relationships between parents and their children and provide information on child development and activities where parents can help with their child’s development.
“This is an opportunity for us to share info with the community about our early literacy program and to connect with the community.”, said Healthy Families representative Diana Adams on why it is important for them to be here.
Black History, being at the root of the holiday, served as one of the biggest themes of the festival. Historian Darlene Harrod had a table set up displaying some important local figures in black history.
“It is an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate. I’m a county native and this gives me joy to see so many people out to celebrate and enjoy this occasion”, Harrod said.
For those looking to learn more about Juneteenth, visit https://www.juneteenth.com/.
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