DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Mary Graham Grant, an artist-inresidence, has been sewing sweetgrass baskets in the traditional ways of the Gullah Geechee since making her first one in 1990. Now Grant travels the country, sharing traditional art forms that were brought to coastal South Carolina from West Africa via the slave trade.
As part of last Saturday’s Juneteenth Celebration at the Frog Alley Caribbean Festival in Delray Beach, Grant demonstrated the artistry of sweetgrass basket sewing and gave hands-on instruction to the festival-goers.
Grant was joined by Ramona La Roche, PhD, who shared even more information on the Gullah Geechee culture and traditions at the celebration. Dr. La Roche is a Cultural Heritage Informatics Librarian at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Ft. Lauderdale. Funded by a Traditional Arts Touring Grant from South Arts, the Spady Museum invited Grant and La Roche to create a special workshop that illustrates the ties between the Gullah Geechee culture and the African-American communities of South Florida.
“We couldn’t think of a better event to showcase this talent and history than the Juneteenth Celebration at the Frog Alley Caribbean Festival because it’s such a fun combination of music, food, culture, history and community,” said Museum Director Charlene Farrington.
“Delray Beach is a microcosmic melting pot of cultures, so we know there are descendants of West Africa and the Gullah Geechee living here, and we are proud to celebrate their contribution to our communal fabric.”
BACKGROUND: About Juneteenth – June 19th
“The ‘end of slavery’ in the United States is highly contemplated concept and has a deep a layered meaning to our South Florida community,” Farrington said. “Some would not agree that slavery has ended, others cannot comfortably talk about it because of denial or guilt; others think the past should be buried along with the dead.”
“The Spady Museum’s goal is to make sure the events surrounding this time period are not lost forever. Younger generations should at the very least be aware of these important dates in our shared history. As much as the Fourth of July is celebrated, so should Juneteenth.”
Juneteenth celebrates not only the national Juneteenth, which is also known as Emancipation Day since news of freedom from slavery fell on the 19th of June more than 154 years ago, but also May 20, 1865, which is Florida’s Emancipation Day. Juneteenth originated as a celebration of the ending of slavery in Texas. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and 1,800 troops of the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced that the Civil War had ended, and all enslaved persons were free. Even though President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect on January 1, 1863, freeing all enslaved persons in those states in rebellion against the United States, for various reasons, the decree had not yet taken effect in Texas. To learn more Juneteenth, visit www.juneteenth.com
WHEN/WHERE: The Juneteenth Celebration at the Frog Alley Caribbean Festival was held from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, 2019, at the Libby Wesley Plaza, Atlantic Avenue and SW 5th Avenue in Delray Beach. The event features and celebrates the Caribbean culture, including food, music, fashions and history based in the West Atlantic corridor.