Sunday, June 22, 2014

Juneteenth Celebration in Alamogordo, New Mexico

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Juneteenth Celebration in Alamogordo, NM was sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Friends of the Library (FOL).

Juneteenth is a celebration that occurs every year on June 19. It commemorates the day that 2,000 Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas with General George Granger.  He announced that the Civil War had ended and read a general order which freed 250,000 slaves living in the state of Texas. Although President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect two years prior, in January of 1863, many were still enslaved until June 19, 1865, with the arrival of General Granger and his troops. This pronouncement was not magical in that compliance did not come easily and many slaves were killed and mistreated for some time afterwards.

This event is now recognized as a state holiday or state holiday observance by all but seven states (Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah).

The meeting was opened with a prayer by Pastor Warren Robinson who also happens to be president of the Otero County NAACP.  Warren introduced Nadia Sikes, president of FOL, who then read a proclamation issued by Mayor Susie Galea about the Juneteenth holiday.

Carolyn Peeler, vice president of the NAACP, introduced her husband, Ron Peeler who then read the Preamble to of the Declaration of Independence.  Carolyn and Ron narrated slides of former slaves celebrating Juneteenth.

Storyteller Sarah "Juba" Addison, on the Board of Storytellers of New Mexico, proceeded to relate three excellent stories, one of which was "The Masada in America Ebony Sea" based on historical events that occurred  in 1803 when the sea turned to ebony. This is an incident when the Africans on a slave ship walk into the ocean, still wearing their chains, and drown, rather than to become slaves. Juba, as she prefers to be called, learned storytelling from her grandmother, Sarah Jane, a descendant of West African Griots. She is an exciting storyteller and quite expressive.

Keith Gerber, author of  "The Christian Chronicles", read a poem he wrote for this Juneteenth Celebration. He noted that Juneteenth Independence Day was not only important to people of color, but to everyone because all people should be free and treated equally.

Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication with the New Mexico Arts Council and Camilla Dodson did not arrive until the event had officially adjourned. There were still 15 or so of us visiting and she came in with her driver, Nicole. We arranged chairs in a large circle while Nicole and several of the men brought in many drums so that each person had one in front of their chair. There were djembes, congas, bongos, etc. Camilla began to teach us African songs and how to play the drums.

We had a great time--it was almost like being back in kindergarten--and with her story telling, an hour and a half went by rapidly. Camilla Dodson is from Africa and she specializes in dance, drumming, song and storytelling.

Many thanks to Warren Robinson, Ron and Carolyn Peeler, and Nadia Sikes for all your work in putting this Juneteenth Celebration together.

Ron Peeler talking to the crowd

Juba Addison, a talented storyteller
Sharon Jenkins, NMSC-A librarian talking with Steve Haydu, Holloman AFB librarian. Joel Hamilton and Nadia Sikes in background
Juba Addison being interviewed by Jessica Palmer of the Alamogordo Dailey News
Bob Flotte of radio station KHII interviewing Nadia Sikes, FOL president
Ron Peeler talking with Joel Hamilton
Otero County NAACP President Warren Robinson with Juba Addison, noted storyteller
Attendee Carla Kerr with Juba Addison (Photo Credit: Warren Robinson)
Linda M. Barker enjoying the refreshments
L to R: VP Carolyn Peeler of the NAACP, Diane and Joel Hamilton visiting over refreshments
Keith Gerber, author of "The Christian Chronicles" reading his poem
Camilla Dodson, an authentic African entertainer including dance, drumming, song and storytelling
L to R: Steve Haydu, Karen Hutchison and Denise ready for their drum lesson
Nadia Sikes and Paul Logner
Carla getting down with her bad self! (Photo by Paul Logner)
Jessie on the left really is a drummer and Camilla directing us
Steve, Karen and Denise "got the beat goin' on"
This was my first Juneteenth Celebration and I will be ready for next year. It was just so enlightening and so much fun too.

This is all I have to say for now.

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