Baton Rouge African American museum commemorates Juneteenth

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Juneteenth, the day slaves learned they were free, on June 19, 1865. Louisiana is one of 45 states to recognize Juneteenth as a special day in history. The Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American Museum served as site for the community to celebrate that achievement in African American culture

"Museums such as this, you learn and get the story behind what they had to do to get there, it wasn't always easy," said Jeremy Blunt with the National Guard Youth Challenge League Program. "So especially for these young people to see, ya know that no matter what my past was, it doesn't dictate what level that i can go."

Blunt said Youth Challenge League Program has been volunteering at the Juneteenth celebration for the last six years.

Lorraine Wiggins,17, participates in the program, "…If you have no connection with somebody. No bond with them, no knowledge of what they've been through you can't help them through hard times like they've helped you through yours, " said Wiggins.

It's from the spirit of unity, that the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American Museum was born. It's a faith based museum that started in 2001 out of New St. Luke Baptist Church, located on South Boulevard. It's namesake, Odell S. Williams donated artifacts and pictures she taught with decades ago as a teacher.

Williams was a member of St. Luke Baptist Church where she served as Head Deaconess, "She said it's important for African American children to know history, as other children knew theirs," Sadie Roberts-Joseph, Museum creator.

The non-profit museum operates solely off donations from the community," said Roberts-Joseph. "Williams' artwork acted as the museum's cornerstone, "Every now and then you need to hear from home and if you don't know where you're from, you don't know where you're going." .

The museum has evolved into a stand alone building and now the walls are covered in images of African American doctors, politicians and inventions that impact daily life, "You can look at the traffic light and say thank you black America. You can look at the filament to the light bulb and the dust pan and the type writer and the golf tee and you can say thank you black America," said Roberts- Joseph.

"We need to understand that African Americans played a big role in the development in the United States of America, that's for everybody to know," said museum supporter and Representative Patricia Smith.

The creator of the museum, Roberts-Joseph said the museum is open to everyone. By teaching America's history, a stronger bond among strangers is formed through celebrations like Juneteenth, "You build a better me then you're better able to share and to feel. It gives you the buoyancy when something is up against you, it doesn't really penetrate your spirit," she said.

"Even though we probably don't even know each other, its like a strong love here," said Wiggins.

To make a donation to the museum call 225-343-4431