Drums and dances echo the closing ceremony of Juneteenth

Juneteenth celebrations included West African djembe music | Sophia Noya, PantherNOW

Sophia Noya | Contributing Writer

The last in a string of celebrations, the Juneteenth closing ceremony at the Biscayne Bay Campus honored the holiday’s history and importance with speeches, music, dance, and more.

The event was held in the Wolfe University Center and organized by the Department of Access, Compliance and Equal Opportunity.

The ceremony started with a duo playing the djembe, a drum from West Africa. The musicians involved the audience in their performance, inviting the crowd to clap along with the rhythm and explaining how different parts of the head of the djembe produced different sounds. 

Catherin Meza sang her rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing; considered to be the Black national anthem, it was composed by brothers James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson in 1900. 

Dedications Dance Academy dancers performed alongside the djembe musicians later on in the ceremony. 

Kamyah Daily, winner of the Juneteenth Nova Star Spoken Word Competition, could not attend, but her piece was read to the audience. 

Speakers for the event included FIU President Kenneth A. Jessell, Senior Vice President of Human Resources El pagnier Kay Hudson, Dr. Tameka Bradley Hobbs, Dr. Valarie Patterson and Sharion Davis. 

“It was very informative,” said Davis, associated with Dedications Dance Academy and who also sang at the event. “I’m just grateful that we finally have a space where we can remember our history in the Americas.” 

In her speech, Vice President Hudson said: “Juneteenth is more than a historical milestone, it is a living breathing testament to enduring freedom… I’m grateful to FIU for making Juneteenth a day-on instead of a day-off, to give this opportunity to educate.” 

Juneteenth was made an official holiday in 2021. It observes the end of slavery in the United States, when on June 19th, 1865 the Emancipation Proclamation was imposed upon the Confederate state of Texas once the Union had won the Civil War.

Andrew Williams, who attended the event after hearing about it on WSVN 7News, described the sobering personal significance Juneteenth held for him. 

“It’s about the heritage of my ancestors, what they strived to do for our kids, the future generation- it means all the effort they put into freedom half-way worked, but not all the way.” 

“This holiday means a lot to me,” Williams continued, “It means a step towards freedom.”

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