WELLINGTON, Fla. – In her keynote remarks during this year’s Juneteenth celebration Saturday at the Wellington Amphitheatre, Edith Bush reminded her audience of Opal Lee’s words during a TV interview days earlier.
“I guess I thought it would be like this,” the 94-year educator, who more than anyone alive is credited with the decades of advocacy that last week produced the Juneteenth federal holiday, had told CNN. “But, to have it actually happen was, can I use the phrase the children use? It was off the chain.”
It was consistent with the spirit of Juneteenth that Bush, herself a retired educator, also the decades-long executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Coordinating Committee in West Palm Beach, was surrounded by children as she pointed to Lee.
Similarly, Lee had pointed to the efforts of countless others, notably the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation founded by the late Dr. Ronald Myers. “It’s not just one little old lady in tennis shoes” – a reference to her marathon hikes aimed at garnering attention – “who wanted Juneteenth to be a national holiday,” she said.
In Wellington and elsewhere, African America honored the new holiday even though not honoring those who sought to leap to the front of the holiday parade – an allusion to Congress which, with rare speed, passed the legislation signed into law by President Joe Biden with Lee at his side on Thursday, and celebrated as a paid federal holiday on Friday.
In Wellington and elsewhere, the sentiment was that others should not think that African America will be placated by a holiday. The national reckoning over race continues, with many Americans – including many of African descent – only now becoming conscious that Black people for generations have been commemorating the end of slavery in the United States with a day called “Juneteenth.”
In Wellington, where the Sickle Cell Foundation of Palm Beach & Treasure Coast, led by CEO Shalonda Warren, presented their inaugural Juneteenth event, the daylong cultural celebration featured a spiritual atmosphere, even as it was ﬁlled with spoken word performers or fashion shows, and the Palm Beach Lakes High School Marching Band or the exquisite old school song stylings of the Memory Lane group.
The Faith in Florida organization hosted Juneteenth celebrations statewide, from Miami Gardens to Mims, Vero Beach to Fort Myers, West Park to Tallahassee. A Fort Lauderdale street was renamed for Civil Rights Movement martyrs Harry and Harriette Moore, as the ﬁnal scene of a movie about the couple, “The Price For Freedom,” also was being shot, with director/actor Mario Van Peebles, actress Aisha Jackson and ﬁlmmaker/producer Walter T. Shaw present.