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Lynchburg goes digital to celebrate Juneteenth through the pandemic

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — After 20 years of celebrating Juneteenth in person, Lynchburg went digital this year.

“Today is such a historical day,” said Sheron White, the Director of Kuumba Dance Ensemble, Inc. “It is Juneteenth!”

Juneteenth is a holiday that marks the day that the last community in the U.S. learned about the end of slavery.

“What we know is in 1863,” said White, “there was the Emancipation Proclamation, and in 1865, in Galveston, Texas, they got the news from a Union soldier who made the big announcement that we were finally free.”

White performed in a Juneteenth celebration in Lynchburg on Friday, June 19, along with Bethanie Mickles, the Director of World of Dance Performing Arts Company.

“It’s so special,” said Mickles, “and it’s such a historic day, and a beautiful day for all Americans to share, not just African-Americans. I think this is American history, not just African-American history.”

A large public event had to be scrapped because of the pandemic. Instead, a live-streamed ceremony from the Academy Center of the Arts is now available to watch spoken word poets, drummers, singers, and dancers honor the day.

“We are so happy,” said White, “and in keeping with the Juneteenth theme, we want to make sure it’s a celebratory event.”

“The name of the first dance is sinte, celebration,” White explained. “Kakilambe is a harvest dance.”

Mickles reflected on how recent protests against police brutality and the growing support for the Black Lives Matter movement has made the holiday more well-known among white Americans.

“I’m glad that this year, even with all of the tragedies that we’ve had,” said Mickles, “all the protests and so forth, that people are coming together, and they are celebrating this very important history that is our history that is beautiful.”

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