Valencia College Campuses Celebrate Juneteenth and Black Music Month

Last month, Valencia College celebrated Juneteenth and Black Music Month at every campus. The joint committee — comprised of members from the Valencia African Heritage Committee, West Campus Black History Committee and volunteer faculty and staff — made a notable effort to ensure each campus had the opportunity to learn and celebrate the observance of both Juneteenth and Black Music Month, which have not been observed on every campus in previous years.

History Break: Juneteenth and Black Music Month

Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is the oldest, nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery dating back to the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas and the emancipation of enslaved African Americans throughout the former Confederate States of American. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, effective January 1, 1863, the state of Texas was finally in the position to overcome the resistance of President Lincoln’s executive order.

Black Music Month, also known as African American Music Appreciation Month, is a month-long celebration, which was first recognized by President Jimmy Carter on June 7, 1979, to celebrate the musical influences and contributions of African Americans in the United States throughout the month of June.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the African American Music Bill, which formally established Black Music Month as a national observance and continues to be recognized each year through a presidential proclamation.

Campus Celebrations

Every event across the College included presentations and performances that highlighted the history and present-day impact of Juneteenth and Black Music Month in our country. Employees, community members and organizations, such as the members of the Dorothy Turner Johnson’s Central Florida Chapter of National Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Don Harrell of Orisirisi African Folklore Company, Westridge Middle School Music Department and Alvin Colbert, Jr. of Health Care Center for the Homeless, offered their time and service to bring dynamic presentations at each campus.

The Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson, was included in every event as an experience for all attendees to read the lyrics, hear the song, sing the song, view the images and feel the impact of the journey to freedom and equality for African Americans in the U.S.

A nice surprise at the end of this musical experience was an image of local Central Florida heroes of African diaspora, which included West and Downtown Campus President Falecia Williams. Valencia students and non-Valencia students also shared their gifts at the events.

The West Campus program included Westridge Middle School Music Teacher Bryon Jones, who took the audience on a historical journey of black music from slavery to present day genres and popular artists, as well as featured Palmer Reed, who is Professor of Nursing Diane Reed’s son and a talented young musician. Palmer performed Bob Marley’s “Concrete Jungle” and a medley of popular hip-hop and rhythm and blues songs for the audience. He is also an alumnus of the School of Arts and Entertainment, as well as a singer, songwriter, producer and a guitarist.

Lisa Lippitt, professor, humanities, and committee member, recognized the work of Valencia College student Juan Aviles, who wrote a paper on Juneteenth in Lisa’s African American Humanities course. Juan shared his paper at multiple campuses and brought life to the inequality and injustice of African Americans from slavery to present day.

Deja Alise, a student at Bethune Cookman University and niece of Professor of Economics Tarteashia Harris, sang a beautiful and powerful rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” at multiple campuses. Guests at each event also enjoyed a sample of foods that represented foods from traditional Juneteenth celebrations in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Below are some photos that highlight the celebration.

If you are interested in learning more about the work of the Valencia African Heritage Committee and/or joining the efforts to commemorate holidays such as these on your campus, please contact Danielle McKinnon, chair, Valencia African Heritage Committee and academic division coordinator, at or 407-299-5000, extension 1183.

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