News Column

Juneteenth commemorates emancipation

June 15, 2014

By Kathaleen Roberts, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

June 15--Get your gospel on at Albuquerque's Juneteenth celebrations next weekend.

On Friday, a selection of choirs and praise dancers will take the stage at the African American Performing Arts Center to commemorate the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. This marks the 149th year since the landmark 1863 declaration.

Gospel fans will recognize songs like "Take Me to the King," "I Believe" and Aretha Franklin's version of "To Be Young, Gifted and Black."

The performers will include Belen's Pentecostal Praise Dancers; Steppin' for Christ from Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church; the Faith Tabernacle Full Gospel Church Choir; the Sons of Shiloh from Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church; solo artist Norell Banks; the Shenikah Praise Team; the gospel singers One Accord; and solo artist Lemar.

For the uninitiated, praise dancers perform a spiritual dance for God.

"There's a lot of movement," spokeswoman Khadijah Bottom said. "They look like angels."

Organizers also will read Juneteenth proclamations from Gov. Susana Martinez and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry.

Although Lincoln signed the document in 1863, the message did not arrive to the slaves in Texas until June 19, 1865, Bottom said. The date stuck as the time to celebrate the abolition of slavery. Its traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, the singing of traditional songs like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and readings by African American writers like the late Maya Angelou and Ralph Ellison.

Here are other community Juneteenth events:

6 p.m. Thursday, June 19, Juneteenth Youth Forum at the African American Performing Arts Center. The focus of the event is to educate youth of all ethnicities about the origin of Juneteenth and its meaning today.

9 a.m. Saturday, June 21, a community old-fashioned Juneteenth softball game at Dennis Chavez ball field next to the Dennis Chavez Community Center, 715 Kathryn SE. Take your glove or bat and jump on a team.

1 p.m. Saturday, June 21, a festival at Kirtland Park, 2903 University SE, will have food, vendors, fun for kids, performances by local music artists and a 3-3 basketball game (sign up at nmnbn. com). For the "old timers" there will be dominoes and Bid Whist tournaments.

If you go

WHAT: Juneteenth Gospelfest

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, June 20

WHERE: African American Performing Arts Center, 310 San Pedro NE

HOW MUCH: Free. Call 453-4865


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Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)

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