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Library goes virtual for Juneteenth

By Alexis Williamson

Intern

The Suffolk Public Library will hold a virtual Juneteenth celebration from 6 to 6:30 p.m. this Friday.

The Suffolk Public Library has held a Juneteenth event for the past three years. The library tries to highlight these celebrations each year or partner with community events that are occurring.

June 19 is a commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.

“The committee felt strongly that the library should offer some type of celebratory event, and because of the current pandemic, we decided to create a virtual program,” said Tiffany Duck, manager of library locations.

The event was planned prior to Tuesday, when Gov. Ralph Northam announced he intends to mark Juneteenth as a state holiday. He gave state employees in the executive branch a paid day off this Friday and said he will propose legislation to make the holiday permanent.

“Juneteenth celebrates the day that news of the Emancipation finally reached some of the enslaved at Galveston, Texas, and many people see this as the actual day of freedom. For many, Juneteenth is a day of history, reflection and celebration,” Duck said.

The guest speaker for the event will be Nathan Richardson, a native of Suffolk, who is a poet, author and historian, specializing in the noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass. He will talk about the history of Juneteenth.

“On Friday, I will be talking about Juneteenth and the history that brought about that holiday,” he said. “I’ll be talking about slavery, Emancipation, and why news of the Emancipation Proclamation did not reach Galveston, Texas, until June 19, 1865.”

“I’m excited to be a part of the event sponsored by the Suffolk Public Library System,” Richardson added. “This is my second year working with the library. I’m eager and hopeful that the public is going to take part using the virtual platform they created for the quarantine.”

The Juneteenth Celebration video will premiere on Facebook and YouTube at 6 p.m.

Northam’s Juneteenth announcement on Tuesday was hailed by Virginia leaders.

“Since 1619, when representative democracy and enslaved African people arrived in Virginia within a month of each other, we have said one thing, but done another,” said Northam. “It’s time we elevate Juneteenth not just as a celebration by and for some Virginians, but one acknowledged and commemorated by all of us. It mattered then because it marked the end of slavery in this country, and it matters now because it says to Black communities, this is not just your history — this is everyone’s shared history, and we will celebrate it together. This is a step toward the Commonwealth we want to be as we go forward.”

“This is a big display of progress, and I am grateful for Virginia for leading the way,” said performing artist Pharrell Williams, a Virginia native, who participated in the announcement. “From this moment on, when you look at the vastness of the night sky, and you see those stars moving up there, know that those stars are our African ancestors dancing. They are dancing in celebration because their lives are acknowledged.”