Cape Gazette
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Juneteenth Arts Festival set for Milton June 21

By Betty Fleming, Special to the Cape Gazette | Jun 20, 2014
Members of the Juneteenth Arts Festiva are (l-r) Mary Matthews, Chairman Waynne Paskins, Stell Selby, Milton Mayor Marion Jones, sorority President Gerrye Jones, Hattie Bull, Veronica Oney and Regina Jones-Brake.

Next time you, a family member, or friend, are at the computer, look up on the Internet the term, “Juneteenth,” and see what you get. It may surprise you…Some U.S. history that you never heard of, no doubt.

The name, Juneteenth, was given, many years ago, to a historic date, June 19, 1865. “It’s the oldest known celebration that signifies the real end of slavery in the United States,” said Waynne Paskins of Rehoboth Beach, who has researched the matter.

Jan. 1, 1863, about two-and-a-half years before, was the date that the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. That supposedly ended all slavery in the U. S. But, Texas was the holdout. “Possible explanations describe a messenger who was sent to Texas to announce the news and was murdered,” said Paskins. “Another explanation was that Texas slave owners simply withheld the news until June 19, 1865 when union troops arrived.”

It’s hard to ponder how the slaves in Texas did not get this important news for years but, of course, communication was very limited.  Getting the word on anything was limited.

What does this mean in 2014, for residents of Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, and the surrounding area? It would be easy for this event to remain mostly unknown, un-recognized. But, Paskins and other members of the Sussex County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, known for its charitable work, are, for the second year, recognizing the event and sharing it with the community.

The “Juneteenth Arts Festival,” is being held Saturday, June 21, at Milton Memorial Park from 10 am to 2 pm. The event is free and will feature activities for young and old. “We’ll have a spelling bee for grades 1-6 at 1:30 p.m.,” said Paskins. “We’ll also have service vendors such as Beebe Healthcare, music provided by Christy Taylor of Georgetown, the work of local artists, crafts, liturgical dancers, and food and other treats.”

Paskins is chairwoman of this year’s event. She is working closely with the Rev. Dr. Geraldine Jones, another sorority member involved in the effort. From Seaford but now living in Dover, Jones is the author of several books and has a special sense for history and this event.

“Our sorority is made up of college graduates,” said Jones, “some with advanced degrees.” The sorority has raised well over $10,000 for scholarship awards over the years,” She added, “We gave scholarships this year to seven students.”

There is no rain date.

For more information on the event, call Gerrye Jones at 302-736-6491.

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