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Published: 6/19/2005

The `J' in Juneteenth stands for jubilation at art museum

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER
From left, Emily, Rachel, and mom, June Howland, discuss Civil War uniforms for African-American soldiers who fought for the Union with re-enactor Richard Trench at the museum. From left, Emily, Rachel, and mom, June Howland, discuss Civil War uniforms for African-American soldiers who fought for the Union with re-enactor Richard Trench at the museum.
SCHUKAR / BLADE Enlarge
Deonte Hill and his sister Shawnta finish work at the Toledo Museum of Art on a paper square for a quilt that celebrates freedom. The quilt will be displayed at the museum. Deonte Hill and his sister Shawnta finish work at the Toledo Museum of Art on a paper square for a quilt that celebrates freedom. The quilt will be displayed at the museum.
SCHUKAR / BLADE Enlarge

Juneteenth has been celebrated with parades, small gatherings, and picnics in Toledo and around the country in the past.

Yesterday, the Toledo Museum of Art, joined by more than a thousand people, helped the city mark Juneteenth with one of its biggest celebrations ever in Toledo.

Other celebrations included one at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church and in communities such as Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Lima, and Shaker Heights.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Gen. Gordon Granger informed slaves in Galveston, Texas, of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was enacted 1 years earlier.

The date and the celebration around it have come to recognize the ending of legalized slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is an official state holiday in Texas.

A cross section of cultures and ages could be seen at the museum's Monroe Street Terrace, where some 1,500 crowded for the event's opening ceremony, followed by jump-shout music of the Blues Connoisseurs.

There were ethnic foods, exhibits, and other activities under tents on the grounds in front of the art museum. Residents even entered their favorite recipes for desserts, such as sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, and pound cake, in a celebrity-judged bake-off.

Tina Johnson, 41, said she never visited the art museum before and saw the celebration as a chance to take grandson Brian Johnson, 5, to it.

"I wanted him to find out what Juneteenth was all about and what it means to him," Ms. Johnson said. "I heard about June-teenth, but really didn't know what it meant. The more I read about it, the more interested I became. I thought this was a good way to celebrate it."

Mike Magoto, 43, who spent time in Texas, said he was pleased that the art museum opened its doors to such a celebration that would a draw a variety of people from the city.

"I'm glad to see that it's being celebrated, not just by African-Americans - but everyone," said Mr. Magoto, who attended the program with his son, Leo, 5. "I lived in Texas a long time, and I'm a big supporter of the museum."

Donna Sharper, 35, a charter school teacher, said she brought a couple of younger relatives to the celebration to learn about the holiday. She said her father, Donald, encouraged her to pass the things she learned about African-American holidays to others.

"I'm walking in the tradition of my father today," Ms. Sharper said. "My dad would take us to stuff like this. I wanted to do the same. This is a very unique event for them."

Inside the museum, the usually quiet halls were awakened with storytelling and the hand-clapping music of such groups as the Voices of Joy in the Great Gallery.

Chloe Carter, 15, and her brother, Alex, 11, watched their father, Floyd, perform with Voices of Joy as the group brought a crowd of nearly 100 to their feet with rousing gospel songs.

They said it was important to see people of different races and faiths enjoy not only the celebration, but the meaning of it.

"It's very special that people are recognizing Juneteenth," said Chloe, a senior-to-be at St. Ursula Academy. "It's pleasing to see that they are given this special recognition. It also helps me learn about my culture."

Jackie Adams, chairman of the museum's committee for cultural diversity, said she was happy with the crowd that flowed through the museum with activities spread throughout the facility.

"I think it's great because more people are learning about Juneteenth, and you're bringing a more diverse group to the museum," Ms. Adams said. "What else could you ask for?"

Contact Clyde Hughes at: chughes@theblade.com or 419-724-6095.



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