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Juneteenth celebrates freedom
TAMPA, Fla. -- In stark contrast to the way news travels in an instant around the globe today, news of emancipation from slavery travelled to the enslaved only as fast as humans could carry it.

The Emancipation Proclamation, issued in September 1862, called for slavery to end officially Jan. 1, 1863. But word didn’t Texas until 1865 when Union troops arrived to announce and enforce it – between June 18 and 19. Juneteenth creatively embraces both dates. The term took root and has spread throughout the United States from its origins in Galveston. 

Some areas celebrate the end of slavery for a day, most often June 19; some for a week; and still others for the entire month. The University of South Florida Institute on Black Life has teamed with SISTUHS, Incorporated, to co-sponsor an event that will showcase nonprofit organizations in the Tampa Bay area, June 26 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Helping Our People Excel (H.O.P.E.) Community Center, 4902 N. 22nd St. in Tampa. This event is free and open to the public.

“Juneteenth is the oldest emancipation celebration in the U. S.,” said IBL Director Cheryl Rodriguez. “We chose to focus on those in our area who are working to strengthen the African American community by emphasizing health, education, youth empowerment and economic development – the most positive forces for change.”

USF is home to one of SISTUHS, Incorporated’s seven chapters. The organization was born at Florida State University and has inducted more than 2,000 members since 1992. 

“This is the first time we’re celebrating Juneteenth as an organization,” said LaDessa Mitchell, a fiscal and business specialist at USF and the group’s Juneteenth celebration program coordinator. “We’ve chosen this occasion to promote and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African-American history and culture in a way that encourages self-development and respect for all cultures.”

This month, the Tampa, Florida Professional chapter introduced its Little SISTUHS Program that “provides positive role models for teen girls and promotes volunteerism. We want to help develop an altruistic spirit among our next generation of minority women,” Mitchell said. The chapter will also present its 3rd Annual Home Leadership Program and Backpack Giveaway, Aug. 7, at the HOPE Center, at 10:30 a.m. 

“Our goal is to develop local leadership to respond to the needs of the African-American community,” Mitchell said. “Our Home Leadership Program event offers activities for children and informative workshops by volunteer speakers for parents about skills essentials to leading a household.”

Other programs include the Judy Candis Breast Cancer Awareness Project, with Sisters Network, an African-American breast cancer survivor's support group that encourages health screenings and education. The organization has also done volunteer work with Metropolitan Ministries, Hanna Oaks Nursing Facility and others.

“As individuals, our members are active in our community as officers and board and committee members of various organizations including the Black Student Union, NAACP, National Council of Negro Women and various sororities,” she said. “They also represent the needs of our people in their roles as campus leaders and assist those in need through many volunteer ventures.

“This legacy of giving back has created many great lawyers, writers and professionals that now represent our organization and our mission in their professional capacities. They are being successful in their careers by being significant in our communities.”

For more information about the Tampa, Florida Professional Chapter of SISTUHS, Incorporated, visit and for more information about SISTUHS, Inc., visit www.sistuhs.orga.

Filed under:Arts and Sciences Africana Studies Institute on Black Life School of Social Sciences  
Author: Barbara Melendez