Juneteenth in push for support

Published May 2, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - Paul Boston is in crunch time now as he scrambles to assemble everything he needs to pull off an ambitious, five-day Juneteenth celebration at Russell Street Park.

On Tuesday, he got County Commission consensus for more help with the event. On Monday he is expected to seek more than $5, 000 in fee waivers from the Brooksville City Council.

Boston has said he has support from many organizations and individuals. What he really wants is full city and county sponsorship as a message that local government stands with the African-American community on an event focused on freedom.

The county cannot make that commitment due to liability concerns, County Administrator Gary Kuhl told Boston on Tuesday. The city's attorney David La Croix has issued the same advice to the Brooksville City Council.

The Juneteenth Historical Festival, organized by Boston's J.U.S.T. U.S. Inc., is slated for June 13-17. Plans call for arts, crafts, music, food vendors, family activities and educational displays demonstrating details of the slavery experience.

Juneteenth commemorates the day that word of the emancipation of the slaves reached Galveston, Texas: June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Last month, Boston got so frustrated with the city the day after he made a detailed presentation about the celebration to the council that he resigned as chairman of the event. But his fellow committee members refused to accept his resignation, he said, and so he withdrew it.

Boston argues that the liability for the city and the county should not be an issue. The local Elks Lodge, he said, has agreed to provide the insurance needed. Boston told the commission Tuesday that a hold-harmless agreement will be provided for both the city and the county.

City officials have been compiling cost estimates for the council members to make their choice next week on how many fees to forgive and how many services to provide.

In a memo to the City Council on Monday, interim City Manager Steve Baumgartner said that information from Boston was expected this week so the council can take action on Monday.

Boston has said he hopes for approval of the services needed from the city as well as sponsorship.

"We think that the city needs to stand with the African-American community, " Boston said.

"To me that's more important. To just put on a party and have a good time is meaningless.

"I want to mend fences and build bridges. That's what's important to me, " Boston said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or 352 754-6117.