Merlene Davis: Two upcoming events — Juneteenth and Father's Day — are reason to celebrate

Herald-Leader columnistJune 9, 2014 

  • Juneteenth Celebration recognizing veterans

    When: 10 a.m.-noon June 14.

    Where: African Cemetery No. 2, E. Seventh St.

    10th annual Father's Day Event

    When: 9 a.m. June 14, prayer breakfast, First African Baptist Church, 465 Price Rd.; 11 a.m., march to Douglass Park on Georgetown St.; noon-4 p.m., family fun and educational activities.

Those who attend two events in Lexington on Saturday will look back into black history and look forward to the future of black families.

The look back occurs at African Cemetery No. 2, where members of the U.S. Colored Troop will be saluted in honor of the 150th anniversary of black soldiers in Kentucky being allowed to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Yvonne Giles, a local historian, said because Kentucky was a border state, it wasn't required to, nor did it want to, enlist black soldiers during the war.

"Frederick Douglass fought for it," Giles said. "But it didn't happen until they thought they were losing."

Most of the freedmen and ex-slaves enlisted at Camp Nelson, which has been determined to be one of the largest recruiting stations for black soldiers at that time.

But on Saturday, she said, all veterans in Cove Haven and Highland Memorial cemeteries, as well as African Cemetery No. 2, will be honored by having a flag placed at his or her tombstone. In Lexington Cemetery, the 40 black soldiers killed during the Civil War and buried in the military section will be given flags.

The ceremonies also commemorate Lexington's annual Juneteenth Celebration, named for the liberation of the last known U.S. slaves in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865.

The event begins at 10 a.m. and will feature a talk by W. Stephen McBride, director of Interpretation at Camp Nelson Park and the author of several publications about the camp.

Re-enactors Robert Bell and the 12th Heavy Artillery Regiment will bring historic stories to life, as will the youth of Main Street Baptist Church, who will portray the enlistment of Buford Beatty, who was a church member and corporal, and his participation in battles against Robert E. Lee.

Also on Saturday, families will be celebrating the future by encouraging men to get more involved with their children.

The 10th annual Father's Day Event begins at 9 a.m. with a men's prayer breakfast at First African Baptist Church, 465 Price Road, which will also include various speakers.

David Cozart, Fayette County Fatherhood Initiative director, said speakers will "address the phenomenon of the catastrophe" occurring in our society that starts with the absenteeism of fathers.

His program is now seeing two generations of men who have grown up without fathers in the home, and a third is on the way.

"We began as a means to raise awareness of the problems, and we are now blessed to have done that," Cozart said. "We have served 500 men in two years.

"But we are not at the level of intimacy we would like to get with them," he said. "We want them to know they are the strongest presence in the life of their children."

To do that requires getting men the support they need to be an integral part of their families. That could mean access to post-secondary education or employment, or to defray the costs of counseling.

"We could be supportive by helping with minor car repairs," Cozart said, "or with equipment for their jobs like a tool belt or work boots.

"We don't know what is needed until we get more in-depth with the men," he said.

That information will be made available to the men at the breakfast as well as later at Douglass Park.

At 10:30 a.m., registration begins and everyone will receive a T-shirt. Then at 11 a.m., the group will march from the church to Douglass Park, where a day of family fun begins.

There will be health screenings available as well as food, prizes, workshops taught by Lowe's volunteers, free haircuts, free photos, free credit reports and information about financial literacy.

Two $5,000 down payments will be available through a random drawing to be used on homes in Equestrian View. The down payments, offered by the Lexington Housing Authority, require the recipients to attend homeownership classes through REACH or Community Ventures Corp.

"There are big things on the horizon," Cozart said of the fatherhood program, "but this is just a venue to appreciate and celebrate and recruit. The march is symbolic of continuing to move forward."

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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