‘Life is a gift’: Umoja Village marks Juneteenth with joy in Aiken County

‘Life is a gift’: Umoja Village marks Juneteenth with joy in Aiken County

SALLEY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) – The CSRA celebrated Juneteenth on Wednesday with a second round of events commemorating the date in 1865 that slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free.

The celebrations started over the weekend with parades and other gatherings.

But with Wednesday being the official holiday, there was more fun, including the Augusta Juneteenth Festival and Umoja Village’s festivities in Aiken County.

Band of Brothers host Augusta's Juneteenth Celebration at Augusta Common.

Umoja Village, a nonprofit resource organization with a name that means “unity,” held its event at Eudora Farms Wildlife Safari Park in Salley.

It was a celebration not only of Juneteenth but also the anniversary of Umoja Vilage’s beginning.

“This day is a very, very special day,” said Donna Moore Wesby, CEO and co-founder of Umoja Village. “Not only is it a momentous day for our country … it is also the day that Umoja Village was founded in 2020.”

Donna Moore Wesby
Donna Moore Wesby(WRDW)

She hopes the gathering meant as much to others as it did to her.

“What I hope they take away is that life is a gift. It is meant to be celebrated each and every day,” she said. “Each of us has been given a purpose in life, and if we each do our part to walk in that purpose to serve others, then we all benefit. Everybody wins because everybody is lifted up.”

Over 130 people gathered at the event to remember and honor their culture. One of those in attendance was Salley Mayor LaDonna Hall.

In commemoration of Juneteenth, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People...

She said Juneteenth “is a very sweet but sour … spot in our hearts” that “helps us to remember the things that we should be grateful for.”

“I’m the first African American female mayor of our town, and it’s because of the sacrifices that they were made to make,” she said.

“Because they paved the way, I’m able to sit in this position now.”

LaDonna Hall
LaDonna Hall(WRDW)

The gathering included African-style drummers and dancers, educational and history presentations, line dancing and more.

And, of course, wildlife.

Wesby said she was glad to see the children mesmerized by nature.

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