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Juneteenth celebrated to honor end of slavery

Tamaka Carter, sings “Lifft Every Voice and Sing,” at the to the Juneteenth Celebration Flag Ceremony at Penn College on Friday. Carter is the treasurer oif the Penn College Black Student Union. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Endurance, freedom, suffering and joy.

That is what “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” recognized as the Black national anthem, stands for.

A stirring rendition of the song was sung Friday morning by Tamaka Carter, a business administration major from Williamsport as the Juneteenth flag was raised by Mayor Derek Slaughter and Tiana M. Rawls-White, president of Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Black Student Union.

The ceremony, which began at 10 a.m., launched a slate of activities that continue today to mark the college Juneteenth observance.

Freedom, liberty and justice for all

Juneteenth honors the June 19, 1865, reading of General Order No. 3, through which the Union army emancipated enslaved African Americans in Texas — the last state of the Confederacy with institutional slavery.

“I’m bursting with excitement,” Rawls-White said of organizing the event. “I am excited to share with Black, brown and all students and visitors the educational factor of Juneteenth at the college.”

She took a moment to share the significance of the flag that was raised.

The white star has two representations. It stands for Texas as the Lone Star State and the freedom of African Americans in all 50 states. The burst that outlines the star is inspired by a nova, which meant a new star and new beginning for Black Americans.

The arch across the flag represents a new horizon, new opportunities and promises that are ahead for Black Americans.

The red, white and blue colors represent the American flag, reminding all that slaves and their descendants are Americans. The date is the day that enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, became Americans by law.

Slaughter said Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending slavery in the U.S.

On June 17, Juneteenth became officially a U.S. federal holiday.

“We must continue to do the work of all who came before us,” Slaughter said.

“Harriet (Tubman), Rosa (Parks), Martin (Luther King Jr.), Malcolm (X), and so many others before and after them crawled and walked, so that we could all run and fly, so that a kid like me could grow up and become the first mayor of color in Williamsport’s history.”

Slaughter offered a quote befitting the tradition: “Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.”

“Lets’s continue to educate each other, inspire each other and uplift each other so we can be sensitized to the experiences of others and make these lasting improvements in our society.

“This is the responsibilty of each one of us.”

Slaughter quoted King: “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity, and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

“Therefore,” Slaughter said, “I challenge all of us today, tomorrow and always to get out of your comfort zone, into uncomfortable situations and engage in this labor with painstaking excellence. For this is how we all learn and grow

in order to make these lasting improvements in our society.”

“Most students are not on campus during Juneteenth,” Rawls-White said.

“We wanted to give students the opportunity to learn about this celebration, especially those who may not come from an area that celebrates it, hence our hosting in September when we have more students on campus,” she said, joined by Shaqira Drummond, vice president of the Black Student Union.

Each shared how they have seen more students of color enrolling in the college’s many courses.

To gain union members, the leadership said it has done outreach using Penn College Today, social media sites and the Stall Wall, posters on boards throughout the college calling for individuals to explore joining, Black and non-Black alike.

The slate of activites was filled. The Madigan Library displayed works by Black authors, and the college’s social media channels profiled the student organization’s officers and inspirational people of color.

Events today include a 9 a.m. speech in the LEC Loop — “If Not Us, Then Who?” — followed by a Freedom Walk from 9:30 to 11 a.m.

Also, a Vendors Row of various products and services will be set up on the Advanced Technology and Health Sciences Center mall from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A question and answer panel will be held at 1:45 p.m. in the ACC Auditorium. The discussion will be moderated by Eric D. Pruden, automotive instructor and adviser to the Black Student Union.

At 3 p.m., The Black Flame Dance Team from Kutztown University will be performing on the PDC Lawn, and from 7 to 11 p.m., there will be a 1990s-themed Juneteenth Dance at the PDC Lawn.

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