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Fort Myers community coming together for 10th Annual Juneteenth Community Celebration

Posted at 5:28 AM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 05:28:12-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — This Sunday is not only Father’s Day but also Juneteenth.

A day to commemorate the end of slavery and emancipation of African Americans in the U.S.

To observe the day, the Dunbar Festival Committee and the Lee County Black History Society are teaming up to host the 10th Annual Juneteenth Community Celebration.

"There’s a lot of good, local history inside this building that you cannot, some of it, you just cannot find online and it’s not printed,” says Charles Barnes, Chairman of the Lee County Black History Society.

Inside the Williams Academy Museum, you’ll find a few links to the past.

"It’s a great tale of how the integration process started in the ‘60s and those kinds of things.”

It served as Lee County’s first, government-funded school for Black students. And Saturday the historic school will be a key figure in the present, playing host to Fort Myers’ Juneteenth Community Celebration.

“There’s some push back about its true history," says Barnes. "But at the end of the day, you understand that each state had it on a different day.”

Juneteenth became a recognized federal holiday last year, but it can be traced back to the 1800s. The day is always observed on or around June 19th. The day that slaves in Galveston, Texas learned they had been freed more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

"It’s a celebration day that we honor the fact that this ended slavery but also the fact that- and I always tell my kids this- we have to understand the endurance," Barnes says. "That our ancestors went thru that process and were successful and survived it so that we can be where we are today.”

"Juneteenth in Fort Myers… it’s huge.”

Kimberly Thomas is with the Dunbar Festival Committee. Even for her, entering the former school now-turned museum is enlightening.

"There are some things that every time I come into this building, it gives me chills!" she says. "I just, right at the forefront, took a snapshot of something I never even knew.”

The Juneteenth exhibit will be on display thru the end of the month, but the observance goes further than that….

"Coming together, in unity for the community, it’s needed," said Thomas. "There’s so much negativity going on in the world right now that to see everyone come together as a force of one unit together… amazing.”

"People ought to find some time to celebrate," said Barnes. "And just think about what it truly means for this great nation to declare this as a national holiday.”

The Juneteenth Community Celebration gets underway this Saturday at Roberto Clemente Park in Fort Myers from noon to 6:00.