African Accents celebrated Juneteenth last Saturday with face painting, spoken word poetry, belly dancing, gospel singers, African drummers and praise dancers. Malcolm and Stacia Crawford, proprietors of the shop at 5847 W. Chicago Ave., held their celebration across the street from their store.

Juneteenth is the holiday that celebrates the emancipation of slaves. It began in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, the day the slaves in Galveston received the news that they were free. The news of freedom came 2 ½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation of Jan. 1, 1863. Major General Gordon read the order and though the information was delayed, it was still a day to celebrate.

At Saturday’s West Side celebration, Congressman Danny Davis welcomed the community and brought the information about Juneteenth to the community.

Though the celebration went into decline in the 1950s and ’60s, my hometown of Milwaukee, Wis. celebrated even when other cities such as Chicago became less involved. Often, people from Chicago would drive to Milwaukee for the Juneteenth celebration, which always included a large parade. In recent years, people in Chicago have been attempting to revive the holiday.

Kicking off the musical portion of Saturday’s event were drummers Rickie P. Brown, Carl Spight and William McBeth. Nina Rae sang to the accompaniment of the drummers and her smooth stylistic sound wooed the crowd. The drummers are part of the group that participates in the drum circles at African Accents every Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m., and the drum circles are free and open to the public every weekend. Brown, Spight and McBeth continue the traditional African drumming call to the community. Dancing and drumming were a part of communities’ spiritual awareness during slavery. Some plantation owners banned drumming because slaves used it as a means of communication. A well known Ghanaian poet and scholar, Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang, calls slavery “the living wound under the patchwork of scars.” Those scars are commemorated by our drummers of today.

Stacia Crawford said, “The event was a huge success. We had gospel by Wendell and Albertina Greene, Judah, and a new teen gospel group called G3 (God Gets the Glory). Praise dance was performed by Two-Step as well as the Brooks/Julian International Praise Dancers [plus] poets Mama Brenda Matthews, Anthony Newsom, Deana Dean, Chaneka York and Cartharis. The crowd enjoyed the exotic moves of Jade the belly dancer who also teaches belly dancing at African Accents every Saturday from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.”

Vendors were on hand selling African art, designer clothing and unique hand-crafted jewelry. One young lady, who was doing face-painting and has her own business, thanked Cong. Davis for providing information that allowed her to get a scholarship. She credited the congressman with being her inspiration.

The Crawford family’s Juneteenth celebration is part of their overall goal to inform, serve and celebrate African-American culture.