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New leader keeps Juneteenth going

The June 16 event at Campbell Park will mark the ending of slavery.

By JON WILSON
Published March 4, 2007


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ST. PETERSBURG - Juneteenth, the event that commemorates the freeing of American slaves, is back in business after its original organizer retired from the annual project last year.

Longtime St. Petersburg resident Faye Dowdell, a retired federal agent and military officer, has revived the celebration, and a new board of directors is in place.

This year's event will take place on June 16 at Campbell Park from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. As usual, it's free and open to the public.

"We want to keep St. Petersburg on the map," said Dowdell, who experienced her first Juneteenth while in the Air Force and stationed in Germany.

"This is our signature event for celebrating freedom from slavery," she said.

Dowdell began working on the event soon after Jeanie Blue, the original organizer, decided to call it quits after 15 years of putting it on.

It took until January to get reorganization details in order and cost her "a couple thousand" in out-of-pocket expenses, Dowdell said. Juneteenth of St. Petersburg Inc. got its nonprofit status last month.

"It has been an uphill struggle," Dowdell said.

Along the way, the Urban League and the city of St. Petersburg's business assistance center helped out, she said.

"It's my understanding that she has been working very hard," said Thomas "Jet" Jackson, the city's recreation manager.

Dowdell plans a sponsors' reception on June 19 at the Holiday Inn Sunspree. Sponsors for the event are still welcome.

The usual family day activities will take place, including carnival games, performances, arts and crafts, free beauty make-overs, health screenings and massages. Some free food will be available, but individual vendors also will sell.

Juneteenth originated on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas. On that date, African-Americans in and around Galveston received word of emancipation, even though President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier.

For the St. Petersburg event, a Web site should be up soon, Dowdell said, at www.juneteenth-stpete.org.

[Last modified March 3, 2007, 19:42:09]


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