Saturday, June 17th will mark Charles County, Maryland’s fourth year of hosting the Juneteenth Freedom Day Celebration. The Charles County Juneteenth Foundation was founded four years ago, and its founders have been educating the public through fun and reflection ever since. The foundation is a charitable nonprofit organization which offers a scholarship fund for black high school seniors in Charles County. Each year, a good portion of the money from the celebration, helps eligible students with their college tuition.
The event is held at the Waldorf Center in Waldorf, Maryland, and there are performances and attractions for everyone. Activities range from dunk tanks and double Dutch to poetry and storytelling. But most importantly, guests young and old will learn about Juneteenth. Juneteenth celebrates the day that the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas were informed of their freedom. Despite the Emancipation Proclamation being signed in 1863, the black population was kept in the dark until union soldiers told them about the news in 1865. The joy from this day has been remembered forever by the city of Galveston and the festivities around it, spread throughout the country to places like Waldorf.
As the wealthiest majority black county in United States, the people of Charles County put a lot of effort into Juneteenth festivities. But the magic of Charles’s County’s great celebration can be attributed the most to the great board members of the foundation. For example, Natonya Thomas is both the board secretary and the general manager of the venue, the Shops at Waldorf. The shopping center is set to host over thirty black vendors this weekend.
It also helps that many of the board members have a focus on advocacy. Board member, Abena McCallister is the founder of Woman of Action Charles County, which works to expand on progress made during the Women’s March on Washington.
Tross, who specializes in cyber security, says, “there’s a lot going on in our country right now. Like banning the books. This is not about banning books. This is not about making our fellow folks of the community feel bad about anything. This is about pride. This is about bringing everyone together. This is a community event. We want everyone to come. No matter who you are, you are invited. This is important that we as a community come together and just celebrate.”
When it comes to the meaning of the event Jackson, the CEO of Phoenix International Incorporated, thinks of the perseverance of the enslaved people who were still forced to work after the emancipation proclamation was signed.
Jackson says, “I work specifically with young people a lot. So I think about what example I’m setting. How am I portraying that perseverance in my work, despite the challenges that are put forward us today? I really do think about perseverance specifically for young people and making sure that we can build a community, a black community that they can be proud of as they grow and get older.”
Jackson, who also has a background in education, has a large role in the way the holiday and black history is taught at the event.
Jackson says, “we do an oratory presentation for youth. Storytelling is deeply embedded in the culture of African people here in America and African Americans. We integrate all of that into this program and hope that our guests, when they leave, they leave feeling joy, they leave feeling pride, and that they have learned something new that they didn’t know about Juneteenth, the contributions of African Americans here in Charles County and across the nation.”
In addition to things like black cowboys and face painting, renowned educator, Dr. Gianni Clarkson will be giving an interactive history lesson to guests.
With the celebration coming up this Saturday, get tickets on Eventbrite or donate to the scholarship fund. The foundation’s email is email@example.com.
“It’s all about educating our youth and leaving a legacy,” says Tross.