U community helps celebrate end of slavery

by Kathryn Herzog

University students and staff members joined people from across the Twin Cities this weekend to celebrate the liberation of African-Americans and the end of slavery more than a century ago.
Hundreds gathered Saturday afternoon at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis to celebrate the start of Juneteenth, an annual event that marks the time when slaves in Texas learned they were free.
Saturday’s celebration included African-American music, dance, crafts, storytelling and a parade. Throughout the park, participants dressed in African-American historical and cultural clothing, and members of the Minnesota Ninth and Tenth Horse Cavalry of the Buffalo Soldiers wore traditional Civil War uniforms and told stories of their role in history. During the Civil War, the Buffalo Soldiers were a group of African-American soldiers who served the Union.
Members of more than 40 community health, education and civil rights organizations participated in the Juneteenth celebration, including University organizations attempting to reach out to the Twin Cities African-American community.
“The University is trying to become more visible in communities of color,” said Anne Wade of Continuing Education and Extension/University College. Wade said one of the ways to do that is to go where the people are.
“The University can seem very large and impersonal to many people, and people of color may have the notion that the University is not for them,” said Wade. “Bringing the University to the community can defuse that sense of not belonging.”
Members of the Africana Student Cultural Center and University Medical School were on hand to educate people on health issues in the African-American community, such as HIV and safe sex
Sauda Kidau, vice president of Africana, said some members of the cultural center attended Juneteeth to educate people on political and human rights issues as well. Kidau handed out information on a youth exchange to Cuba that University students, including 12 members of Africana, will attend.
Juneteenth activities will also include a community symposium at noon on Thursday at the Humphrey Institute. Speakers will include Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles-Belton and Rose Brewer, chairwoman for the University Afro-American and African Studies Department.
The Juneteenth holiday has a long history. Although President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in states rebelling against the Union, took effect on January 1, 1863, some slaves in Texas didn’t hear the news until Union troops occupied the state in June 1865. As the news spread throughout Texas, celebrations were held. Since then, Juneteenth has been celebrated in Texas as a state holiday.