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June 20, 2004
Celebrating Juneteenth Day


The celebration of Juneteenth Day, otherwise known as "African American Emancipation Day," has turned into a international festival that in some parts last a month. After fifty-three years of Juneteenth celebrations our national holiday has broadened to celebrate freedom for all people. San Francisco's historic Fillmore District, was one of more than twenty locations in California that hosted a soulful tribute through music, food, arts & crafts, and carnival family fun which began on Thursday and ended this evening.

Some of the other Juneteenth celebration cities throughout California included: Alameda, Bakersfield, Carson, Chino, East Palo Alto, Fairfield, Folsom, Lake Elsinore, Los Angeles, Marin City, Oxnard, Pomona, Ridgecrest, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Stockton, Tracy and Upland.

Juneteenth commemorates the freeing of the last slaves, in Texas, on June 19, 1865 -- two months after the end of the Civil War and more than two years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. It is an opportunity to make connections with ancestors and to re-establish ties with cultural roots and lost family members, as a result of slavery.

Dr. John Henrick Clarke, cofounder and associate editor of the Harlem Quarterly (1949–1950), founding president of the African Heritage Studies Association (the 1960s), and in the 1980s, a founder and chairman of the Council of Elders of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilization and Cornell University professor wrote:

Nowhere in the annals of history has a people experienced such a long and traumatic ordeal as Africans during the Atlantic slave trade. Over the nearly four centuries of the slave - which continued until the end of the Civil War - millions of African men, women, and children were savagely torn from their homeland, herded onto ships, and dispersed all over the so-called New World. Although there is no way to compute exactly how many people perished, it has been estimated that between thirty and sixty million Africans were subjected to this horrendous triangular trade system and that only one third-if that-of those people survived...

"In Santa Rosa, the land where Martin Luther King Park was built was owned in the 1850s by a black man who used it as a haven for runaway slaves," said Reverand Ann Gray Byrd, president of the Santa Rosa chapter of the NAACP.

The Oregonian reported today that the Storytellerz Readers Theatre in Portland is staging a reading of slave narratives to fulfill a tradition of oral history that was once kept alive only within family circles. The narratives are drawn from a book called "Unchained Memories" which is based on more than 2,000 interviews of former slaves conducted by the federal government in the 1930s. Theatre Director, LaVerne Green said, "This is not just an African American celebration. This is for all people because we all have struggled. We recognize all of our struggles so that we can celebrate our differences." LaVerne's great-great grandmother was a slave. As a child LaVerne would listen to her father recount stories that today are a reminder of the preciousness of freedom.

While I have not read Booker T. Washington's autobiography Up From Slavery everything I have read about it leads me to believe this one of the most inspirational books a child of any race could read today.

As Amazon reviewer, R. K. McInish states:

Mr. Washington illustrates for us the life-lessons which can empower any individual or race in our free society today.

Namely, look to your neighbor in love, not anger; recognize the nobility in working hard for something rather than expecting charity; be willing to give yourself to a greater cause; believe that people are capable of great things and they will live up to your expectations; recognize the importance of education, not just of the mind, but of the body and soul as well; recognize that any man who provides value to the community in which he lives will be accepted and even welcomed into that community; and above all, trust in God to care for your needs.

I highly recommend this book as a testament to the positive result of thinking from a perspective of Love and Abundance rather than Anger and Scarcity. When Mr. Washington's humility is measured against his accomplishments, he becomes in my eyes one of the greatest Americans to have lived.

Trying to imagine the reality of Africans who were taken to America to become slaves, I picture my family and children being taken by terrorists into a living nightmare. Thank God for the servicemen and women who have sacrificed being with their families today to protect not just Americans but children throughout the world.

Today, in addition to celebrating our forefathers and present fathers, we celebrate our childhood heroes like Harriet Tubman and Booker T. Washington.

Personally, I would like to pay tribute to friends in our community—Ron Kellum, Niki Taylor, Laura Pinkney, entrepreneur Essie Collins, photographer Bob Turner, and jazz artist and teacher, Jesse Foster, who make our lives so much richer.

jesse.foster.jpgHear Jesse sing at Bistro Yoffi in the Marina (2231 Chestnut Street) on the second Thursday of each month. This month, that date is Thursday, July 15th.

Jesse's first CD called People, Places & Songs will be released on Friday, July 30th at Bistro Yoffi.

Call Yoffi today to reserve your table (415.885.5133). To reserve a copy of his CD, please call 415.292.6973.

Inspire & Be Inspired.

~Jennifer King

African-American Family History Resources

Alex Haley's effort to discover his Roots: www.afrigeneas.com.

The Smithsonian's African-American History & Culture at www.si.edu/resource/faq/nmah/afroam.htm;

The Canada-based members.shaw.ca/justgen/afa.htm

The U.S. National Archives' online guide to using federal records and photograph collections at: www.archives.gov/research_room/genealogy/

Documentary and photographic resources on African history: www.fordham.edu/halsall/africa/africasbook.html; and, WWW-Virtual Library (African-American History), www.ku.edu/history/VL/USA/african-american.html.

CAL Berkeley Libraries' African and African-American Collection at www.lib.berkeley.edu/Collections/Africana/

The Africana Center within the City of San Jose/San Jose State University's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library at www.sjpl.lib.ca.us/research/special/chc/africana_index.htm

The Oakland (CA) Public Library's African American Museum and Library at Oakland at www.oaklandlibrary.org/AAMLO/collection.html

The comprehensive Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library at www.nypl.org/research/sc/sc.html

Genealogy Pathfinder for African-American History at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System ("The People's University") at www.af.public.lib.ga.us/bibresources/genealogy/pathfinder_aa.html

Source: Dr. Andy Anderson, Wells Fargo Chief Historian - andya@wellsfargo.com

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