“Freedom to me is love,” said Little Miss Juneteenth Allie Williams.

Young Miss Juneteenth Dilyn Berry said, “Freedom to me is to think or speak without restraint.”

Junior Teen Miss Juneteenth Damia Pearson said, “Freedom to me is loving God without any restraints.”

And Teen Miss Juneteenth Jerniyah Richardson said, “Freedom to me is wisdom and courage.”

On Saturday, the Orangeburg Miss Juneteenth 2022 Pageant winners defined “freedom” during the second annual Orangeburg County Juneteenth Celebration held at the Orangeburg County Fairgrounds.

Festivities kicked off on Friday night with the crowning of the Orangeburg Miss Juneteenth 2022 Pageant winners. Other winners are: Baby Miss Juneteenth Emoni Williams, Princess Miss Juneteenth London Linder, Junior Miss Juneteenth Kerman Fuller and Miss Juneteenth Ahnazha Muhammad.

The Miss Juneteenth Flag Queens 2022 include: Red Miss Juneteenth Little JaVera Hopkins, Blue Miss Juneteenth Jereniyah Williams and White Miss Juneteenth Harmoni Williams.

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Saturday’s events also included a parade in downtown Orangeburg and ended with a fireworks display at the fairgrounds at night.

Just before dancers and speakers took to the stage at the fairgrounds, participants walked to the flagpoles at the site and raised the official Juneteenth flag. Immediately following, the crowd sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem.

Hundreds of people gathered at the fairgrounds on Saturday for the day-long event. A Juneteenth community worship service took place on Sunday at the fairgrounds.

“Juneteenth” is the shortened version of “June 19,” the day in 1865 when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, two months after the surrender of the Confederacy and two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Saturday’s event was filled with celebrations, music, vendors, dancing and words of inspiration.

During an afternoon program, attorney Dr. Shaquana Cuttino said, “I love this community.”

She reflected on her years as a student at South Carolina State University, saying “it helped shape me to be who I am.”

“See, every day in the news, y’all know we hear something bad about our young people, right? ‘They killing, they stealing’ and all of these shootings. But young people, I want to tell you this: If that’s not you, don’t let that sink into your spirit,” Cuttino said.

“You put on your full armor of God and nothing can penetrate it. Not negativity, not stereotypes, nothing,” she said.

“Know who your ancestors are. You are not what they show in the news. You are who God called you to be,” Cuttino added.

“We are products of people who marched, who got killed, hung, raped, beaten, so that we could be somebody,” she said.

“And we have to be somebody. If you are born into this culture, you have a responsibility to be somebody,” she added.

“To the elders, y’all have to be there for these young people. You can’t write them off,” Cuttino said.

“We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams, no matter what they want us to believe,” she said.

“Young people, it doesn’t matter if you got into a little bit of trouble. Your life isn’t over,” she said.

“You have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams. What I am doing today is what they died for me to do and I’m going to do it and I’m going to do it well. And after I finish doing it, I’m going to help the next person do it and we’re going to keep on doing it. And we’re going to take our places as the kings and queens that we are,’” Cuttino said.

Stephens spoke next, reminding the crowd that it took two years for freed Blacks in Galveston, Texas to learn the news they were no longer enslaved.

“It took two years for the word to get out and if you fast forward to 1965, the word still hadn’t gotten out. We were still struggling,” Stephens said.

“Fast forward to 2022 and we are still struggling together to ensure that equality and equity are still being given,” he added.

He reminded the audience the Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Stephens said, “So why do we have to settle between equity and equality, when we should have both?”

“To young folks, there are so many evils out there to try to attract your attention. You have individuals in your life, who, over the years, have overcome all kinds of adversities and you see them in all walks of life and they are successful,” he said.

“You can be the same way, but you have to remember that one thing is that you must give honor to God for giving you the opportunity for life,” Stephens said.

“Thank your parents, thank your community. Praise each other because you need it. We need it. It’s hard, but it can be done,” Stephens said.

“We’re going to have to make up our mind that this is what we’re going to do as a race of people,” Stephens said.

Cindy Evans, with the assistance of Craig Wolley and several other organizers, coordinated the Orangeburg County Juneteenth celebration.

Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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