Charles County senior citizens celebrate Juneteenth
This year marks the 152nd celebration of Juneteenth Independence Day, and recently the Richard R. Clark Senior Center helped commemorate the day and remind the Charles County community what the holiday truly represents.
Juneteenth commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, and the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the Confederate South. Juneteenth is the mash-up of the month of “June” and the “nineteenth” day of the month. Juneteenth is also called Freedom or Emancipation Day.
Maryland is one of 45 states that recognize Juneteenth. Residents of the senior center, family members and residents of the adjoining community gathered in the auditorium of the center to learn about the day, share stories, eat foods that were indigenous to slaves and hear music from More Than a Drum band.
“We’ve been doing Juneteenth celebration for the past three years now,” said center administrator Kathy Cooke. “We didn’t necessarily have a Juneteenth celebration to begin with, but with help of the late Nannie Rainy and others, this celebration came to be in existence … and a particular group of people associated with the Clark counsel headed up by Betti Cochran has set about to do this celebration yearly.”
The mood of the celebration was further enriched by the senior center’s gospel singers, who performed a medley of spiritual hymns with Lessie Gibson as the pianist. Attendees also raised their voices in song to pay tribute to slaves.
Historian Denise Baker spoke about the history of the Juneteenth celebration and the important role it plays in today’s society.
“Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday and a day of special observance in 45 of the existing states and the District of Columbia,” Baker said. “Slavery was the legal institution ... where African-Americans were used as personal property.”
In her speech, Baker detailed linkage to slavery in Maryland and Charles County specifically. She outlined
that slavery lasted in Maryland for around 200 years and it started in 1642 when the first Africans were brought to St. Mary’s County. Slavery ended in Maryland on Nov. 1, 1864.
One of the largest slave plantations in the state was located in downtown Bryans Road, known today as Marshall Hall. On April 16, 1862, slavery was abolished in the nation’s capital.
With more than 100 people in attendance, Cooke said that this year’s celebration was a success and encourages senior citizens to come out and be active.
“Come out and get involved, get active and you will live longer,” Cooke said.
Members of the Richard R. Clark Senior Center gospel choir perform during the Juneteenth event in La Plata.
Bettie Cochran dressed in her African attire at the third annual Juneteenth Celebration at the Richard R. Clark Senior Center in La Plata.