Crescent City honors A. Philip Randolph at Juneteenth celebration

On a day marked to celebrate freedom from slavery in the United States, Crescent City residents celebrated one of the city’s native sons — A. Philip Randolph — and used his example to encourage continued work for equality. 

“The boy from Crescent City raised the curtain and opened the eyes of a lot of Americans,” said John Lee, one of the featured speakers Saturday at Crescent City’s fifth annual Juneteenth celebration. 

Juneteenth celebrates the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation after the Civil War ended in 1865. Historians note June 19, 1865, as the first Juneteenth celebration, when Union troops arrived in Galveston and declared slaves free in Texas. 

At Crescent City’s celebration, speakers referred to Juneteenth as “our real independence day.”

Twenty-four years after the first Juneteenth celebration, Randolph was born in Crescent City. His father was a pastor at Union Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church — where Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration was held.

“He was born of good, strong parents of good faith,” Lee said. “We’re standing where the proof is.”

Lee, a federal mediation and conciliation services arbitrator, and other speakers recognized Randolph for continuing the fight for racial equality in the workplace. 

Randolph left Crescent City for New York City and later organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters — the first labor union led by black workers to be supported by the American Federation of Labor. 

Randolph became a leader in the labor movement, playing an important role in the Civil Rights movement. He was an organizer for the March on Washington in 1941 and 1963.

While Randolph made significant strides for black workers, keynote speaker Phyllis Hancock said, but there is more work to be done in the fight for race and gender equality in the workplace.

Hancock is president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute of Florida, a chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute in Washington, D.C., the senior constituency group of the AFL-CIO.

She quoted Randolph, hoping to inspire Putnam County residents, and echoing earlier sentiments from local leaders.

“Salvation for a race, nation or class must come from within,” Hancock said. 

Crescent City Mayor Joe Santa applauded residents for embracing diversity in the city’s black, white and Hispanic communities, but said he would like to see more widespread cooperation. 

“The fabric of any town, big or small, is important,” Santa said, recalling the Orlando attack that took place earlier this month, claiming the lives of 49 club-goers. “With the rise of technology, our social fabric has gone down the tubes in a way. … But we can overcome differences together.”

Putnam County Commissioner Karl Flagg directed his comments to county residents and leaders, encouraging them to “embrace one another” and “work together.”

Saturday’s celebration featured seven speakers, five performances and readings, songs and prayer, and special remarks from event organizer, Angel Duke. 

Putnam County commissioners and the city of Crescent City designated June 18, 2016, as A. Philip Randolph Day in honor of Saturday’s celebration, and to recognize the national strides toward equality at the hands of “Crescent City’s Native Son.”

Palatka Daily News

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