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Juneteenth freedom commemoration weekend planned

6/11/2013, 12:54 p.m.
Elegba Folklore Society dancers

— Richmond’s “Cultural Ambassador”, Elegba Folklore Society, has planned a series of free family events from June 14-16 to commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth, an annual day also known as Juneteenth National Freedom Day that remembers the impact of the slave trade in Virginia during the 246 years between 1619 and 1865.

Elegba Folklore Society, led by Janine Bell, president and artistic director, will present “Juneteenth 2013, A Freedom Celebration” beginning on June 14. The event, featuring a symposium and concert will be held at Pine Camp Arts Center, 4901 Old Brook Road, 6–10 p.m., June 14.

The historic Manchester Dock, 1308 Brander Street, on the south bank of the James River, was an entry port for Africans being brought into the Americas to be sold into slavery, and will be the site for “Reflective Celebration, from 4-11 p.m. on June 15. This year’s theme is “Take Me to the Water” because water is a cleansing element, a healing element, a traditional gathering place, and, historically, when looking to spirit for a way out, captured Africans proclaimed, “The water brought us, and the water can carry us home.”

The weekend Juneteenth schedule of events will feature performers and speakers, who will present according to the theme. Author and cultural historian, Anthony T. Browder will present “Django Decoded” on June 14.

Spoken word performers, The Last Poets, will also appear at the Juneteenth event. With their politically charged raps, taut rhythms, and dedication to raising African American consciousness, The Last Poets are credited with “almost single-handedly” laying the groundwork for the emergence of hip hop.

Dancers, drummers and singers will also appear in an interactive concert, “African Dance, Music & the Oral Tradition”. They have taught and performed at universities, schools, festivals, theatres, community centers and churches in a multi-state area and in Senegal, Switzerland and Cuba.

On June 16, at 4 p.m. the libation ceremony and land blessing open day two of the Juneteenth commemoration event. The stage will feature rousing spiritual renditions as spirituals not only express the souls of people, but they also coded the Underground Railroad.

Elegba Folklore Society has promised that its African dancers and drummers will provide an “essential cultural context” for the day. Day two will also offer The Freedom Market featuring food, information exhibits, art and imports along with special engagement for children.