Charles County se­nior cit­i­zens cel­e­brate June­teenth

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By CERONE WHITE cwhite@somd­news.com

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.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY CERONE WHITE

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.

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