Legacy’s African American Culture Club Holds Taste Of Juneteenth Celebration


LEESBURG – More than 150 residents of Legacy Homes of Leesburg and the Clermont Community were able to get a belly full of traditional African American soul food, learned about the historical discrimination case against Virgil Hawkins, a Black man, who wasn’t allowed to attend the University of Florida’s Law School based solely on race in 1949, and the importance of  voting in the presidential election in November at an informative and entertaining  second annual Taste of Juneteenth Celebration Wednesday, June 19th, 2024 at Legacy Social Hall at 5400 Legacy Blvd., Leesburg, Florida.

Wow! What an amazing evening of celebration for June 19, 1865, the day when Africa Americans in Galveston, Texas found out they were no longer slaves, but freed two years earlier when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

The Keynote speaker was Harley Scott Herbert, a champion and advocate for Virgil Hawkins, a black man determined to integrate the University of Florida Law School. It is due to Harley’s efforts that Virgil was finally admitted to the bar after age 70 and now has a Memorial on the Campus of University of Florida. Virgil Hawkins was a native Floridian, born and reared in Okahumpka Florida, just a few blocks from the Legacy Community.

He fought all of his life to be admitted to the University of Florida Law School and become a member of the bar association. Harley discussed the indignities suffered by Virgil Hawkins and his struggles. A member of the Hawkins family, Mrs. Bettye Coney, a trailblazer in her own right, introduced Mr. Herbert. She was accompanied by several other members of the Hawkins family.

The program was taken to another level with a special appearance of Florida Democratic Chair Nikki Fried. Chair Fried shared with the audience her having attended the same school as Virgil Hawkins, University of Florida Law School.

She challenged the attendees to volunteer to make sure we get every Democrat to the polls to vote. This is the first time in over 30 years that every office, Federal, State, and local has a Democratic candidate. Florida is in play in 2024! Chair Nikki Fried encouraged all attendees to get their friends and neighbors out to vote as this election is the most critical election of our lifetime. Obviously, she concluded, volunteers are needed to help make it happen.

The decorations by Sandra Westbrook enhanced Juneteenth, now a federal holiday signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021. All tables dressed in the traditional red, black, and green colors with centerpieces that displayed the Juneteenth spirit. The delicious foods were more than a tasting but tables full of collard greens, macaroni and cheese, Perlo rice, pulled pork, fried chicken, baked beans, black beans and rice, potato salad and more, including red velvet cupcakes, sweet potato pie, fruit cups, and watermelon. The celebration was a feast of all feasts.

Vendors displayed their goods which highlighted the black experience. There was Laura Lee and her historic Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt and dolls representing the black farmworkers of Apopka that families had perished due to pesticides in the fields where they worked. Next, was Presidential Awardee Willie Goldsmith with his book “Pure Gold” by Coach Willie E. Goldsmith, Sr. Erma Merritt also had her book, “The Color of Sandy” on display. Chad Design Studio was on hand with his merchandise, Made in Africa, Born in America. A magnificent display of the accomplishments of deceased Tuskegee Airman Saleem Aakhir Muhammad by his wife, Tauheedah Muhammad, who proudly discussed his achievements with all that stopped by. Anna Marie, an artist, exhibited her art.

Lively entertainment ended the successful Juneteenth Celebration with a Juneteenth poem by 11-year-old Daniel Louis Ward and performances by the Afro-Caribbean dancers.

What a memorable celebration of Juneteenth with music, lots of information, and dancing.