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Indiana Daily Student -

IU to celebrate 144th Juneteenth Freedom Day

By Kevin Doran | IDS | June 24, 2009

Many groups will join Friday to celebrate the 144th Juneteenth Freedom Day, an important holiday celebrating the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Starting at 5 p.m. June 26, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, along with the City of Bloomington and Ivy Tech Community College, will sponsor the 11th Annual Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at the culture center.

Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, takes place every June 19 and commemorates June 19, 1865, when all the slaves of Galveston, Texas, became aware of their freedom after a Union general took control of the town. Ever since, Juneteenth has been a day to remember the struggle of slavery and also to celebrate black history.

Juneteenth is a state holiday in 31 states. Indiana does not officially recognize it as a holiday, but every year during his tenure, Mayor Mark Kruzan has proclaimed Juneteenth Freedom Day in Bloomington.

The event was previously scheduled as a two-day affair but has since been changed into a one-evening gala with food, music and other entertainment that welcomes the entire family, including special youth activities.

“I think it will be fun,” said Sachiko Higgins-Kante, a Neal-Marshall staff member and one of the event’s coordinators. “And I think it will bring a lot of young people out, which is good, because we want young people to carry on what we’re starting.”

The evening will include a reception in Bridgewater Lounge and the Juneteenth King and Queen Pageant in the Wells-Metz Theatre at 6:30 p.m.

The nine participants had to fill out an application and write an essay on the “Legacy of Juneteenth” and why it is important to younger generations. During the pageant, the contestants will answer questions and present a three- to five-minute talent routine.

There is a $500 grand prize.

Finishing off the evening’s festivities will be the presentation of the Unsung Heroes awards. These are awarded to Bloomington residents who dedicate themselves to serving the good of the community. The award also offers a monetary donation to any charity of the recipients’ choosing.

The importance of the younger generations and the future is the main theme of this year’s pageant.

“The youth are our future,” Higgins-Kante said. “And in order to carry this celebration on, we have to educate them.”