andrea-k-owes_web.jpgThe nineteenth of June is a time for rejoicing and reflection, for meditation and celebration, for self-assessment and self-improvement.

Under the slogan “Passing the Baton of Leadership and Success,” The Urban League of Broward County’s Young Professionals Network (YPN) will host its 2nd annual Juneteenth Commemoration on Wednesday, June 18 at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale.

Juneteenth is the oldest, nationally celebrated commemoration of slavery’s end in the United States. It memorializes June 19, 1865, when the last enslaved Africans in Texas were freed.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on Jan. 1, 1863, slaves in Galveston, Tx. – which had been under Confederate rule – were not told of their freedom until two and a half years later, when Union troops enforced the order and announced that the slaves were free.

Upon hearing of their newfound emancipation, the former slaves rejoiced and celebrated in the streets. Today, Juneteenth is traditionally celebrated with a large feast served throughout the day in an outdoor space, and guest speakers at these events generally comment on the importance of encouraging youth to strive for excellence.

This year’s commemoration at the African-themed library will feature special presentations on political action and advocacy.

Andrea Owes, director of special projects and YPN president of the Urban League of Broward County, said, “We need to exercise our right to vote. We need to take advantage of the right that our ancestors have fought for and died for, and we should continue to restore and establish our civil rights.”

Owes continued, “If we’re not doing the basic of civil rights that we’re given, who are we to complain about what’s happening in the world? We’re not just encouraging people to go out and vote but also to understand what your vote means and how the voting process works.”

At the event, attendees will have the opportunity to register to vote and learn how to use voting machines, following demonstrations from the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office.

There will also be a panel discussion on the importance of passing the baton of leadership to today’s youth, as well as a meet and greet with local political candidates.

Literature from candidates and participating organizations such as the Friends of Children, the Fort Lauderdale NAACP, 100 Black Men of Greater Fort Lauderdale and Black Youth Vote – an organization that encourages young people to get involved in the political process – will be available in a resource room.

Philippe Jean-Bart, advisory board member of Black Youth Vote said, “We want to teach people to get politically active because when they are making personal decisions, such as applying for grants or paying child support, etc, it’s political decisions that influence how we live our everyday lives and what we as a black community have at our table.”

When asked about this year’s theme for the commemoration, Owes said, “The YPN is an auxiliary sect of The Urban League of Broward County, so clearly as young professionals we are looking into the next steps in our lives as far as taking over CEO positions, CFO positions and heading organizations. We are aiming to develop and cultivate the youth by encouraging them to take on leadership roles in their personal lives and their communities.”

Winn-Dixie, one of the nation’s largest food retailers, is the event’s sole sponsor and is in full support of its message.

“Winn-Dixie is proud to support the good work of the Urban League as it continues its mission of increasing youth participation in community activities,” said Joshua Whitton, communications manager of Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc.

Winn-Dixie will host a V.I.P. section at the event, and will also donate 1,000 sport bags for the attendees.

Devin T. Robinson X, also known as Egypt, is listed as the main performer at the celebration.

“I believe that the Juneteenth celebration is a prime example of us honoring our ancestors while moving to the future,’’ Robinson said. “This gives us another reason to celebrate our people and moves us up as a community while bringing us together as a people.”

Palmer.Shanique@yahoo.com

Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Andrea Owes



IF YOU GO:

What:
2nd annual Juneteenth Commemoration “Passing the Baton of Leadership and Success”

Where: The African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., near Fort Lauderdale.

When: Wednesday, June 18, 2008, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Cost:
Free

Contact: Andrea Owes, 954-625-2548