A celebration in Newtown was envisioned as an opportunity to bring Sarasota’s Black community together.
Community members and local vendors congregated on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way on Saturday to celebrate Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Mac Gaudin, one of the event organizers, said the Juneteenth Festival came together quickly, with the concept being floated just about a month ago. The organizers got buy-in from businesses and Newtown property owners who were enthusiastic about the concept.
Gaudin said event organizers let the official holiday, June 19, stand as a day for more solemn reflection on the significance of Juneteenth. The holiday marks the date in 1865 a union general issued an order in Texas proclaiming the freedom of enslaved people following the conclusion of the Civil War.
Gaudin saw the festival, held June 20, as an opportunity to bring Sarasota’s Black community together in the name of joy and love.
“Juneteenth is about unity,” Gaudin said.
He said celebrating as a community was particularly important in the wake of a period of national unrest and local protests fighting racial injustice. During a speech at Saturday’s festival, Sarasota City Commissioner Willie Shaw spoke to the continued effects of systemic racism in America, expressing hope this generation would succeed in achieving meaningful progress on that front.
“I’m sick and tired of conversations,” Shaw said. “I want to see action.”