The first-ever Juneteenth Tea celebration in SWFL was held Sunday in the Edison Ford Shoppes at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates.
The Juneteenth Tea celebration was inspired by community activist Mina Edison, and entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr. Ella Mae Piper.
June 19, 1865, is the date enslaved black people in Galveston, Texas found out they’d been freed. Two years after the emancipation proclamation was signed.
In the middle of the Edison mall, a celebration of freedom and a better future took place.
Susan Tutko said, “I’m playing the role of Mina Edison. That would be Thomas Edison’s wife.”
Dr. Piper and Edison became friends around 1916 and remained friends for a number of years.
“History is important. It tells us where we’ve come from, and hopefully that we can design a better path going forward,” Tutko said.
The event was set in the 1920’s discussing the changes in Fort Myers since Juneteenth.
Latonga Henderson said, “I understand the character of Ella Mae Piper simply because of the fact that I moved here from Miami, into a town that I’m not familiar with. But I also encourage and empower a lot of women of my age and of my stature, and of my community to pursue their dreams, their aspirations.”
On set, Marie C. Dyer is an artist who decided to pay tribute to the past by painting.
“I think that a lot of people don’t realize the history of Fort Myers. And this event is kind of based around two people who were really prominent in the Fort Myers area,” Dyer said.
The finished canvas will be available by auction with proceeds going to locally black-owned nonprofits.
“Our forefathers weren’t allowed to go to college, our forefathers were allowed to vote,” Henderson said.
Henderson said it teaches our young children what to look forward to. The reason why we strive and push so hard for history, education, and knowledge.
From tea to art to the story told in the middle of the mall. It’s all part of a promise to embrace what was once left behind.
Organizers told WINK News it’s important for communities to embrace Juneteenth. Because of its lack of appreciation and attention in previous years.
This is the second year Juneteenth has been recognized as a federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed legislation establishing it in 2021.