For over twenty-five years,, the Delaware Juneteenth Association (DEJA) has been celebrating Juneteenth through the effort and diligence of organizer, Bernie Wilkins. On February 28, 2000, then Governor Thomas Carper signed legislation to acknowledge Juneteenth as a holiday in the state of Delaware. It is to be recognized every third Saturday in June. Our state celebration has included family days in the park, parades, concerts, religious observances, underground railroad tours and a youth pageant directed by Sandy Clark along with assistants, Sylvia Lewis-Harris, President of DEJA, Gabby Hilliard,Dance Instructor, Linda Payne, Styna LeCompte and Donita Moore.
Pageant contestants are young ladies ages 8- 18. They are divided into three categories Juniors (ages 8-11) Showcase (ages 12-14) and Seniors (ages 15-18). Sessions begin in the month of February with workshops on etiquette, social skills, essay writing, public speaking, modeling, nutrition, proper attire, African American history and spirituality. Community service is also an integral part of the program.
Preparing for the stage…
So much happens behind the scenes. Parents play a very intricate role in helping all contestants pray, prepare lines, move last minute props and get out any last minute jitters before gracing the stage.
The Delaware Juneteenth Association (DEJA) Family Enrichment Program was then developed to accommodate the contestant’s families. In this program, families form a common bond that continues year after year. They participate in many wholesome activities to enhance their cultural awareness, while promoting education and healthy family values.