EGLIN AIR BASE – June 19 marked an important date for De’Carlo Garcia and Allison morris‘calendars for years.
But none of them have heard of Juneteenth in Northwest Florida.
The holiday commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas learned they were free. Garcia and Morris, along with a group of other founding members of the African American Military Heritage Society, want to increase awareness of the holiday for current and future generations, namely Okaloosa County.
“The focus is on Independence Day, July 4, but we have yet to recognize (June 17),” Morris said. “I feel like it’s very important to recognize that there was still slavery in 1776, so not everyone was free. We don’t really want to forget that date.
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the African American Military Heritage Society will welcome June 17 Freedom Day featuring the history, music of Cheryl Jones and food trucks from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Air Force Armament Museum at 100 Museum Drive at Eglin Air Force Base. For more information visit aamhsociety.org.
Juneteenth is not a new concept for Garcia.
He is from Texas, where he is celebrated every year, he said. He grew up attending rallies in Juneteenth.
“It was a great celebration of the community, mainly,” Garcia said. “It was a one day event where everyone could have fun. Food was free. The music was free. Everything was free, because freedom was the big word of that day. It was the goal. Peaceful, very peaceful.
When Garcia moved to the Florida Panhandle in 1998, he noticed something was missing: black history.
“I was like, ‘Well, what about Juneteenth?’” Garcia said. “People were celebrating May 1, and I didn’t know what it was, but I knew what Juneteenth was. And I’m like ‘OK, well, why isn’t anyone celebrating June 19th?’ I wanted to for a while, but now I find myself with other people who want to do something. Now it is becoming a reality.
The African-American Military Heritage Society was established two months ago to preserve African-American history in the military. Freedom Day on June 15 will mark its first event.
The association will one day organize an exhibition at the Air Force Weapons Museum recognizing the contributions of African Americans.
While Garcia admits that some people had only recently heard of Juneteenth – if at all – he doesn’t want people to think that this is another wave of recognition.
“Sometimes we even try to avoid saying celebration; it’s more of a commemoration and a remembrance of what happened, ”Garcia said. “Some people are fighting for it to be a vacation because it was such a big event.”
Garcia also wants people to understand that the date is not a chance to play “the blame game,” he said. They want people to know what really happened so it doesn’t happen again, he said.
“Imagine if something happened to you and two and a half years later you find out you’ve missed two and a half years of progress,” Garcia said. “It’s not an insult as some people might think; it is not political. That’s right, we want to bring this to the memory of the community, especially the local black community. We want the local black community to know their history and the things that may have happened to their ancestors and spark the conversation. “
Throughout history, the school and the media have controlled the flow of information, Garcia said. This has changed, he says.
“We have more unregulated forms of media; a lot of knowledge can be spread without control, ”Garcia said. “So Juneteenth, which is a harsh reality that a lot of people just want to cover up and wish they were gone, now you have to know that, ‘Hey, that’s what really happened. “
While Juneteenth represents an awareness of America’s true history, Morris said the date is often omitted from the school system’s curriculum.
“Why so? That’s a good question,” Morris said. “We have to ask ourselves this because it recognizes a dark time in our past. People don’t want to accept this. We mean, ‘OK, the slavery is over. ‘ But when was it over? When did it happen? How did we get to where we are now? We want to recognize those days, because it’s part of our whole story at this point. “