VAACC presents $15K to aid Franklin’s Juneteenth event

Published 5:17 pm Wednesday, May 17, 2023

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The city of Franklin gained key support May 8 for its forthcoming Juneteenth Cultural Celebration.

The Virginia African American Cultural Center Inc., based out of Virginia Beach, donated $15,000 to Franklin to aid in the orchestration of the inaugural event.

This is in addition to the $15,000 the city of Franklin had previously donated to Amun Ra Inc., the nonprofit 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 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 is for it to be 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, as previously explained by 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’s goals are as follows:

  • To create opportunities for everyone to learn about African American culture, explore it and revel in its history, current experiences and future possibilities;
  • To share the essential roles African American culture played in the history of the region and the entire commonwealth;
  • To reinforce the impact of African Americans’ struggle for civil rights and its influence on freedom, struggles regionally and around the world;
  • To build partners with other African American cultural organizations about their history and to be able to culminate this endeavor in a big book that can be shared with other localities, including the city of Franklin;
  • And to provide experiential learning and opportunities, whether it is STEM, health, nutrition, financial literacy or entrepreneurship.

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.”

After the check presentation at the May 8 council meeting, there was a standing ovation among City Council members, and McLemore shook hands with Ross-Hammond, as did Cutchins.

“Thank you,” McLemore told her.

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.”