Emory & Henry organize the first Freedom Festival on June 19 | Latest titles
BY JOAQUIN MANCERA BRISTOL HERALD COURIER
EMORY, Va. — The Emory & Henry College community came together Saturday to celebrate the college’s first Juneteenth Freedom Festival with guest speakers, music and food.
During the festivities, John Holloway, vice president of the Emory & Henry College of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, or DEIB office, explained that Juneteenth, which takes place on June 19, is a celebration to commemorate the day of enslaved Africans. Americans in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War.
“Juneteenth is the recognition of when, finally, the slaves of Galveston, Texas were free,” Holloway said. “News (of the Emancipation Proclamation) did not reach Texas, and many of these families were enslaved for two more years.”
For Holloway Juneteenth, which was made a federal holiday by the Biden administration in June 2021, it’s about bringing communities together to acknowledge, discuss and celebrate the past and present.
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“I really want the community to come together and have a good time and learn a little bit more about the resilience of African Americans and what they’ve been able to survive,” Holloway said. “It’s also a chance for our community to come together beyond African Americans, for everyone to come together and really acknowledge our past, maybe even acknowledge some of the current divisions that we have.”
During the celebrations, Rebecca Grantham, the E&H Technical Services Librarian, presented her research on the life of Squire Miller Henry, who was employed as a porter and laborer at the college from 1869 to 1918 and was one of the first residents of the Blacksburg neighborhood. in Glade Spring, Virginia.
Attendees of the June 19 inaugural festivities at E&H were rocked by a variety of musicians, including Dennis Hill, Marva Wheeler, The Gospel Sensations, the Wolf Hills Jazz Quartet and the Community Mass Choir.
Chinyere Mabry, who will be attending the University of Mary Washington as a freshman next semester, described Juneteenth as a breath of fresh air.
“This is an opportunity to raise our voices. I feel like it’s a day that should be about recognizing not just what happened back then, but all the steps we’ve taken to be better as a community,” Mabry said. . “It’s a breath of fresh air, but it’s one day out of 365.”
For Elizabeth Hill, whose husband worked at Emory & Henry and whose six children attended college as students, Juneteenth is a blessing.
“Things have improved a lot, we still have a long way to go, but where we came from and what we’ve been through, it’s a blessing to come here today,” Hill said. “To celebrate this day when slaves were freed back then, and we are free to come together today and have fun with each other.”