City Hall Commons Atrium Building was the setting for the Juneteenth Ancestral Recognition Celebration held Thursday, June 16, as the celebratory opening event for the 2011 Juneteenth African American Cultural Festival.
Juneteenth commemorates the date, June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, TX received the delayed news of freedom from slavery, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The evening not only celebrated our ancestors’ freedom, but also recognized local outstanding leaders.
Kitty Rice, the former vice president and manager of M&T Bank’s South Avenue Branch, was awarded the NIA Award for Outstanding Civic Leadership. Rice exemplifies her dedication to community service in personal, professional and community life and has been known to volunteer herself and others to get a job done.
In the program booklet, Rice is quoted as saying, “make a rule and pray to God to help you keep it. Never, if possible, lie down at night without being able to say I have made one human being a little wiser or a little happier or at least a little better this day.”
Also recognized were Aarick Knighton and Laka’jia Coleman for Outstanding Civic Youth Leadership.
Jackie Grace-Rasheed, principal of Roxboro Road Elementary School, was captivating as the Mistress of Ceremonies and spoke of engaging the minds of our children.
The poet Mozart, reflecting upon the sacrifices and hardships of our ancestors posed the question in his poem, “Merely a Man:” “What will we risk for human dignity?”
BJ Adigun, program coordinator of CH2M Hill, delivered the keynote message and advised, “We have to look to the future … We have to model to our kids how we want them to live their life.”
Tasty soul food delighted attendees’ stomachs and live musical entertainment by the band, Justus, delighted their ears. The celebration was a conscious party enjoyed by all that shared our history, positive vibes, consciousness and calls to action.