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11th Annual Juneteenth Community Celebration in Fort Myers brings together the community

Lee County Black History Society Board Chairman Charles Barnes, Executive Director Autumn J. Watkins Holloway and Harriet Myers at the groundbreaking for the inclusive playground at Roberto Clemente Park in Fort Myers

The Lee County Black History Society, Dunbar Festival Committee, City of Fort Myers and the African Coalition of Southwest Florida celebrated the community on June 17 at a Juneteenth event to mark the end of slavery in the United States.

The day-long celebration at Roberto Clemente Park included performers, recognition of students, prayer, historic readings and a groundbreaking for a new inclusive playground by the City of Fort Myers.

The Roberto Clemente Park Inclusive Playground, which is expected to be completed Sept. 2024 is made possible by a $1 million appropriation from the state Legislature’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative Program, a collaboration with the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Myers and includes purchase and installation of park equipment for children of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

Also at the event, Lee County students were recognized on stage for their academic and community service achievements as part of the CARRS Program, Celebrating and Recognizing Students’ Success, a collaboration between educator, Constance Davis White, Lee County Black History Society and the School District of Lee County. Students received an award, medal and $25 gift certificate.

Highlights of the day’s events included:

  • Debut of the Buck’s Backyard Murals at historic McCollum Hall hosted by Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency
  • Inspirational prayer by Rev. Jarrod Parker, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church
  • The Black National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance by Theresa Myers
  • Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by Lo’Dovic Kimble
  • Guided tours of the Williams Academy Black History Museum
  • Community music, dance, and spoken word performances

Juneteenth, which has been celebrated since the late 1800s, was finally recognized as a federal holiday in 2021. A special historical exhibit about Florida’s Emancipation Day May 20 and Juneteenth is available at Williams Academy Black History Museum at Clemente Park through the end of June.

Juneteenth is always observed on or around June 19, the day that slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned that they had been freed, more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

About Lee County Black History Society

The Lee County Black History Society, Inc. (LCBHS), a nonprofit organization, was founded in 1994 by Janice Cass. The LCBHS, Inc. is comprised of an 11-member Board of Directors which meets on the second Tuesday of each month. The meeting is open to the public. The LCBHS provides a way for African Americans in Lee County to recognize and celebrate Black History Month, as well as create and maintain the Williams Academy Black History Museum. Black History Month, the Florida Emancipation Day celebration event, Juneteenth and Holiday in the Park are events presented each year by LCBHS through partnerships with other community-based organizations, churches and private citizens. For information, visit LeeCountyBlackHistorySociety.org, email blackhistory@lesscountyblackhistorysociety.org or call 239-332-8778.

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