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Harford’s Hosanna School Museum hosts Juneteenth celebration, featuring ‘Afro-centric’ face coverings

Linda Gilmore shops, purchasing several Afro-centric face coverings to support Black-owned and small businesses, at the Hosanna School Museum's fourth annual Juneteenth Celebration on June 20 at the museum in Darlington.
Linda Gilmore shops, purchasing several Afro-centric face coverings to support Black-owned and small businesses, at the Hosanna School Museum's fourth annual Juneteenth Celebration on June 20 at the museum in Darlington. (Courtesy Hosanna School Museum)

The Hosanna School Museum in Darlington hosted its fourth annual Juneteenth Celebration last week with a Great Mask Giveaway and Sale of Afro-centric, hand-crafted face coverings to support Black-owned and small businesses while helping to protect against the coronavirus, which has disproportionately affected people of color.

This year’s celebration, held June 20, also included two free virtual events, which featured an open dialogue on racial injustice and family-friendly “edu-tainment.”

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“We wrestled with the idea of having this year’s festivities because of the coronavirus pandemic, which exposed many inequities in our Black communities,” said Dr. Iris Leigh Barnes, executive director of the Hosanna School Museum, in a prepared release. “But, Juneteenth is such a significant time in our history, that we felt a need to proceed and celebrate how far we’ve come. Despite the strides we’ve made as a people, though, we recognize we still have a long way to go.”

Juneteenth is the oldest, nationally recognized commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19, 1865, when Union Army General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas, that all slaves were free — almost two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

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This year’s Juneteenth festivities also included self-guided tours of Hosanna School Museum and a virtual film discussion of “Just Mercy” led by Hosanna’s partner, the Havre de Grace Arts Collective.

The movie — starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx — is about a man sentenced to die for the murder of a young girl despite evidence proving his innocence, and the racism and legal and political maneuverings his lawyer was forced to encounter. The discussion included Huwe Burton, who was exonerated through the Innocence Project; Dr. Charles Chavis, historian and educator at George Mason University; Dr. Natasha Pratt-Harris, professor of criminal justice at Morgan State University; and Mecca Lewis-Shakur, moderator.

In addition, there was an evening of virtual “edu-tainment” for the entire family featuring African-American artists, writers, performers, storytellers and more. This was a “taste” of Hosanna’s Juneteenth festival in 2019 that attracted over 2,300 participants. This year’s special guests included Janice Curtis Greene, a nationally recognized storyteller; Ajanet Roundtree, the program coordinator of the John Mitchell, Jr. Program for History, Justice, and Race at George Mason University; Brandye Lee, co-founder of B2 Movement for Change and an accomplished dancer; and Victoria Stanley, an up-and-coming vocalist. These events were free and open to the public.

This year’s Juneteenth celebration was sponsored in part by the Harford County Government Office of Economic Development and in partnership with Havre de Grace Arts Collective and the National Pan-Hellenic Council Harford Alumni Council.

Proceeds from the Great Mask Giveaway and Sale benefited the Harford Community Action Agency Food Bank and educational programming for the Hosanna School Museum.

Since the Afro-centric masks were so popular, they will be available for sale again at Hosanna School Museum from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 11, and Saturday, July 18, according to a news release about the event.

“We provided 155 visitors with free masks during our Great Mask Giveaway and Sale — reflecting the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth,” Barnes added.

Hosanna School Museum was the first of three Freedmen’s Bureau schoolhouses erected in Harford County. Also known as Berkley School, Hosanna was built on land owned by Joseph Paca, the son of Cupid Paca, a free African-American who bought 50 acres of land stretching from Berkley to Darlington. The Freedmen’s Bureau provided construction materials for the two-story frame building while the men of the community provided the labor.

The building was used as a school, community meeting place and church. In 1879, Harford County School Commissioners assumed operation of the school and Hosanna remained an active schoolhouse for Black children until 1946. Currently, it is a living schoolhouse museum, attracting visitors from all over the country. The building is also available for community meetings or public and private events.

To learn more about Hosanna School Museum or to make a donation, visit HosannaSchoolMuseum.com.

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