JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The festival honoring Emancipation Celebration Day in Jacksonville has become an annual tradition for James Weldon Johnson Park.
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman, the park and the city announced Friday that the festival will return to the park on West Monroe Street in downtown Jacksonville from 4-9 p.m. Saturday.
The festival’s goal is to educate the community about the historical significance of Florida’s observed Emancipation Day.
“Are we really free right now?” Pittman asked during a news conference Friday. “Because there are still things that come up in our communities, such as racial issues, divisiveness, and we as leaders are supposed to come together and talk about the injustices that we have. I am so excited that we are able to celebrate this day.”
While many people celebrate Juneteenth, Florida celebrates May 20 as its Emancipation Day.
Emancipation was proclaimed in Tallahassee on May 20, 1865, 11 days after the end of the Civil War, and two years after the Proclamation was first issued by President Abraham Lincoln to free those enslaved in Southern states.
On May 10, Union General Edward M. McCook arrived in Tallahassee to receive the surrender of Florida’s Confederate troops. On May 20, McCook formally announced President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, effectively ending slavery in the state.
“As a community, we are recognizing the past wrongs and injustices with a celebration of unity with a profound purpose. As we continue to celebrate as a community, we still have work to do together,” Pittman said.
Headlining this year’s festival will be Dat’s Pressure Band, a Soul & R&B Vibe from Jacksonville.
Rahman Johnson, National Anchor for the Black Information Network and award-winning author, actor and journalist, returns to host.
Other local performers include Nan Nkama Pan-African & Drum Ensemble and returning artists the Jacksonville Arts and Music School, Taryn “Love Reigns” Warwood, and Mal Jones.
In addition, Jacksonville’s Emancipation Celebration will feature local African American food trucks and vendors and fun activities for the kids.
A panel discussion, led by Dr. Tammy Hodo of All Things Diverse and featuring local historical figures Adonnica Toler, Rodney Hurst Jr. and Rahman Johnson will lend their voices to weave educational stories into the event.
For more information about Jacksonville’s Emancipation Celebration, visit www.JamesWeldonJohnsonPark.org.