Tampa Museum of Art holds Juneteenth Cultural Celebration

The day marks when the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas learned they were free in 1865.

TAMPA, Fla. — Juneteenth celebrations are being held in the Tampa Bay area and across the country. Locally, the Tampa Museum of Art held a first-of-its-kind Juneteenth Cultural Celebration.

“Today, we elevate the voices of people who maybe have been marginalized historically, in their viewpoint in their histories, and in their lives,” Michael Tomor, the Penny and Jeff Vinik Executive Director of the Tampa Museum of Art, said.

It marks when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free. That was in Galveston, Texas in 1865. 

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves of the confederate states. Though you may be inclined to think this happened immediately, it took many years for enslaved people across the nation to be freed.

Inside, visitors got the chance to learn through exhibits centering art from Black communities. Meanwhile, families got to engage through activities and performances.

“We never studied anything like this in school, and I’m so glad that we have the opportunity now in this day and age to learn and share with the next generation,” visitor Lorna Conley said.

The event was also an opportunity for the museum to highlight the need for representation to visitors, Kessanda Abel, the museum’s community engagement manager, said. For instance, through portraits that celebrate Black culture or by highlighting Black artists themselves.

“The institution of museums have not been an opening to all members of our community in the past and I want them to take away that the museum earnestly joyfully welcomes them and celebrates them,” Abel said.

Abel, who spearheaded the celebration, said ultimately, she wants the museum to be a space where everyone feels like they belong.

“We are really driving hard for diversity and inclusion in everything that we do here for the museum,” Abel said. 

The museum partnered with Moffitt Cancer Center to hold the event, along with several sponsors.

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