Juneteenth Freedom Day proudly celebrates Black culture

Attendees celebrate as the rain stops and festivities officially start | Alejandra Ayala, PantherNOW

Kaysea Suzana | Assistant Entertainment Director 

Undeterred by pouring rain, FIU hosted a colorful Juneteenth celebration honoring Black history and culture.

Held in the Dotson pavilion last Saturday, the third annual cultural event saw massive attendance catered by music, dancers, food and local vendors. 

Though the event was meant to begin at 12 p.m, heavy rain pushed most of the performances to 2 p.m. Blazing hot weather immediately followed the rain.

“I got something refreshing like coconut shrimp and watermelon lemonade. The Caribbean cuisine actually pairs well with the heat; I feel like I’m at the beach!” said international business major Elizabeth Morales.

Guests lined up to cool off with a refreshing snack from Bahama Mama in front of the venue | Alejandra Ayala, PantherNOW

Many local vendors sold clothes as well as art portraits and knick-knacks, with food trucks like Bahama Mama providing cuisine emblematic of the African roots in African-American culture.

The performances kicked off with organizers reading an order by General Gordon Granger, a Union general during the American civil war, which declared slavery in Texas illegal and the last enslaved person free on June 19,1865.

Nova Star Scholarship ambassadors, musicians and event staff welcome visitors with a list of all available activities | Alejandra Ayala, PantherNOW

A raffle for bottles of wine took place after the reading, with several guests entering and winning their own lavished liquor. 

Performers from Guitars Over Guns, a musical mentorship program for children, made the crowd roar with original songs and covers. 

Guitars over Guns aims to improve communities with music, encouraging mentees to “choose [their] sound.” | Kaysea Suzana, PantherNOW

Guest Xavier Perry commented on the blend of food and music.

“I love the atmosphere, the people here can enjoy my culture, and join in my music and food,” Perry said.

Young guests wait to paint their canvases | Alejandra Ayala, PantherNOW

In acknowledging current legal situations regarding racial education and events, Dee Perry, Xavier’s wife, commented on the importance of the freedom to attend culturally significant events.

“Events like these should be a choice for one to attend and to enjoy. I believe it should be a choice to begin with,” Dee Perry said.

Dancers and musicians strut around | Kaysea Suzana, PantherNOW

The next set of performances was a dance contest between three student dance teams, each belonging to Black fraternities and sororities. 

Alpha Phi Alpha began their dance, followed by Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. and Phi Beta Sigma

Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. ultimately took first place with Phi Beta as the runner-up.

(Check out clips of each team below! Pause the video to cycle between clips.)

When asked to give a message to fellow students, business analytics major Charles Smith would remind all in attendance the importance of multiculturalism.

“One should research their history, understand different cultures, and understand why people celebrate these events,” said Smith.

As the event ended, Guitar Over Guns performed a final encore before the rain returned. 

Morales shared her own views regarding Juneteenth and its relationship to other students and visitors.

“Anyone can contribute to Juneteenth. It’s definitely a fun, and accessible way of learning about other cultures. It also makes one feel part of a community,” Morales said.

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