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Juneteenth In Tampa Bay: A Day To Celebrate And Mark History

Statue of woman raising hands to sun man stands next to her
Jennifer Rangubphai
Juneteenth monument in Austin, Texas

This Friday is Juneteenth - a celebration to commemorate the end of slavery in America and groups across the Tampa Bay area will be recognizing the day.

Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, the day when federal soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform slaves the Civil War had ended and slavery was abolished. It came a full two-and-a-half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth is considered the longest-running African American holiday. In 1979, Texas became the first state to make it an official celebration. This year, many organizations and private companies have announced that they will either honor or recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday for their employees as a sign of support for the Black community.

In the region, some local celebrations are merging with ongoing protests against police brutality and racism. In Tampa, the Faith in Florida organization is leading a march in Ybor City, saying it will read the names of people killed in police custody as a way to remember and mourn.

The Juneteenth Theatre Justice Project brings theater communities around the country together Jobsite and Stageworks will host a video stream reading on Friday of “Polar Bears, Black Boys, & Prairie Fringed Orchids," a finalist for the 2019 National New Play Network’s National Showcase of New Plays all day through their websites and social media platforms.

A popular annual event, the Miss Tampa Bay Juneteenth Coalition Pageant will be streamed over Facebook Live Friday at 6 p.m.

Others are taking the anniversary online, such as a Black Lives Matter Business Expo led by St. Petersburg's Eight Kings Collective and the Three Generations Food truck.

A street festival that promises “a day of empowerment, encouragement, enlightenment and fun” will celebrate Juneteenth on Saturday afternoon in Sarasota.

Learn My History Foundation, a local non-profit with a focus on youth mentorship and education, will hold a Juneteenth celebration on Saturday in Newtown in Sarasota.  Those who attend are encouraged to wear masks and bring lawn chairs.

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