Special to the New Journal and Guide
The city of Franklin gained key support recently for its forthcoming Juneteenth Cultural Celebration when the Virginia African American Cultural Center Inc., (VAACC) donated $15,000 to the city to aid in the orchestration of the inaugural event.
This is in addition to the $15,000 the city of Franklin received from Amun Ra Inc., the non-profit that is playing a key role in facilitating the celebration.
Juneteenth is a federal holiday celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved Black people in the U.S.
During the Franklin City Council’s May 8 meeting, presenting the $15,000 check to the city on behalf of VAACC, was its founder and chairperson, Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond, who is also a newly reelected councilwoman for the city of Virginia Beach.
“We’re presenting a check for $15,000 to help toward your festivities and celebration, and know that over three, four, five years, it’s going to get bigger and bigger,” she said.
She took some time to share with the Franklin City Council the mission, vision and goals of VAACC, “and you’ll see how you fit into this perfectly,” she said.
“Our mission is to connect, preserve, interpret, inform and celebrate Virginia’s African American history, culture and community and to educate the public about African Americans’ contribution in all areas of endeavor,” she continued.
She noted that the big vision of the VAACC, located in Virginia Beach, is being the statewide leader in generating historical and cultural content through programs, artistic performances and curated exhibits.
This aligns with events planned for Franklin’s Juneteenth Cultural Celebration, according to Ward 3 Councilman Gregory McLemore, who has been giving updates to the council as he helps lead efforts to organize the event.
Ross-Hammond said she has been going to Virginia’s General Assembly on behalf of the VAACC because her organization seeks to create opportunities for everyone to learn about African American culture, explore it and revel in its history, current experiences and future possibilities.
VAACC is also building partnerships with other African American cultural organizations about their history and missions.
Ross-Hammond noted that she went to the Virginia Municipal League conference where she met Franklin Mayor Robert “Bobby” Cutchins and McLemore. It was there that McLemore told her about the Juneteenth event that Franklin was planning.
“I became very excited, because you all have history that needs to be shared all around,” she said. “So when he told me about this, I said, ‘I am on board,’ and on behalf of the Virginia African American Cultural Center, I believe in speaking and walking my talk, so today I’m here as part of us and your inaugural Juneteenth Celebration.”
She recalled how McLemore told her about major African Americans who were native to the area, including Dred Scott, Nat Turner and Anthony Gardiner. Gardiner later moved to Liberia.
“When he told me about Anthony Gardiner,” Ross-Hammond recalled, “I said, ‘Just a minute. This man was a president in Monrovia, Liberia, and I am more recently from Monrovia, Liberia.’ What a coincidence. So that joined us and bonded us.”
When she returned to the speaker’s podium, Ross-Hammond said, “Thank you all, the mayor as well as council members, for supporting what’s going to happen. This is going to be big.”
Cutchins said, “We greatly appreciate the support and the contribution, and we’re looking forward to the festivities and what it brings to Franklin.”