speaking_hands_choir_web.jpgAt a ceremony marking a very special occasion for African Americans, several local personalities were presented with “Home Grown Achiever” awards.

The presentation took place as part of the observance of Juneteenth on Friday, June 17, at the Charles Hadley Park’s Black Box Theater, 1350 NW 50th St.

Lovette Mcgill of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) announced the awards that went to Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, District 2 member, Miami-Dade County School Board; Luther Campbell, businessman, former rapper and former Miami-Dade mayoral candidate; Shirlene Jackson-Ingraham, owner of Jackson’s Soul Food Restaurant; the Rev. Carl Johnson, pastor, 93rd Street Baptist Church; Maurice Kemp, Miami fire chief; Clarence Pittman, president, Local 1416, International Longshoreman; Anthony Williams, Youth Division director, Miami Teen Court; and Betty Wright, recording artist.

Campbell, Johnson and Wright were not present.

“This is our second year partnering with the city of Miami for this great event,” McGill said. “Last year, we had my good friend [actor] Charles ‘Roc’ Dutton but this year I said I don’t need to send for anybody. I’ve got enough people in my own city that I love and are homegrown that we can celebrate tonight.”

This 10th annual event was coordinated through the efforts of the Model City and Little Haiti Neighborhood Enrichment Team Director vonCarol Kinchens, in partnership with Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs, the City of Miami Police Department, the International Longshoreman Local #1416 and the Greater Miami-Dade Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

Mistress of ceremonies M. Tina Dupree, owner of the Motivational Training Center, drove from Tampa to participate in the services.

“This celebration is about remembering our history because of what our ancestors fought for,” said Dupree. “We are also here to show appreciation to persons who have worked very hard and sometimes gets little thanks as we commemorate this Juneteenth.”

Juneteenth celebrates the ending of the enslavement of African-Americans in the United States. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln as an executive order to abolish slavery, it wasn’t until June, 19, 1865, that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the news that the slaves were free.

Texas has been recognized as the first state to celebrate the occasion and made it an official holiday in 1980. The observance has since grown and now takes place in 39 other states, including Florida, and the District of Columbia.

President Barack Obama issued a statement on Sunday describing Juneteenth “as  a time to celebrate the rich heritage and significant contributions of AfricanAmericans, and to recommit ourselves — as Americans — to the enduring pursuit of a more perfect union and to the eternal principles of liberty and justice for all.”

At the Liberty City event, honoree Bendross-Mindingall presented Kinchens and the N.E.T. office with a proclamation for their efforts in improving the quality of lives for residents living in the community. She reminded the gathering that the venue for the celebration was once known as “Railroad Shop” and is a historical landmark that they ought not forget.

“You are standing on sacred ground,” she said. “To know that is to know our families were once evicted from our homes because there were those who wanted to build schools and homes for our white brothers and sisters. I mention this because we are celebrating this holiday and I say to you that for a little girl who was evicted when she was 3 years old so that they can build schools for others, to be now on the School Board… I will forever thank [our forefathers] because I am one of theirs and so are you.”

The Rev. Richard P. Dunn II, city of Miami District 5 commissioner, echoed those sentiments. He encouraged the audience not to apologize for their history and to celebrate it as if any other race of people would.

“One of the things we find ourselves doing is not really celebrating our history,” said Dunn.  “We live in a multi-ethnic culture and our beloved Cuban-American sisters and brothers do not apologize for their history. They’ll out it in your face and tell you ‘take it or leave it.’ Our Jewish brothers and sisters remind us about the Holocaust. Many times, there are other races of people who will never let you forget and some won’t let you forgive.  We have to forgive but we ought not forget.”


GIVING PRAISE: Members of the Speaking Hands choir perform during a Juneteenth
celebration on Friday at Charles Hadley park.