Colony Senior Center celebrates Juneteenth holiday

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(Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

COLONY, Ala. – Kizzie Mongomery Leeth, “Aunt Kiz” to many in her community, was born into slavery in Blount County in 1861 to slave parents. As a child, the family moved to Colony in Cullman County. Outliving her first husband, Henry Malcom, she remarried to William Leeth.

Between the two marriages, she was mother to 13 children. A well-respected and beloved midwife to countless families throughout Colony, Bremen, Arkedelphia, Gamble, Stout Mountain and beyond, she is said to have never lost a baby. Aunt Kiz passed in 1956, a free woman.

On Friday, Aunt Kiz’s great-granddaughter, Catherine Minnitt, and many others celebrated Juneteenth, a national holiday since summer 2021 commemorating the freedom of African American slaves.

“To me it depicts just how far we’ve come, not just the black people but the white people as well. It shows how far all the different races have come in accepting each other,” shared Minnitt.

“This is not some kind of sad thing. It’s not a sad day. It’s a celebration, a real party, because thank God we are free. As Americans especially, we are free.”

Catherine Minnitt pictured by the display of her great grandmother, Kizzie Montgomery Leeth “Aunt Kiz” (Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

Sending up their praises of gratitude in song and in prayer, the members of the senior center enjoyed a special red velvet cake and punch before a moving spoken word testimony by Linda Bradford, told through the eyes of a young slave woman escaping the chains of oppression of the plantation master.

Singing sorrow songs, the woman communicated to her family working the fields that she would soon flee. Countless numbers of those songs became spirituals and found their way into many church hymnals used to this day.

Artwork quilted by Pat Ponder (Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

Despite the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which declared the freedom of slaves in secessionist states, the enforcement of the proclamation was not thorough in some parts of the southern United States.

The Juneteenth holiday, observed on June 19, memorializes the anniversary of the announcement of the freedom of the slaves in Galveston, Texas, the last Confederate state still holding black people hostage in slavery.

Linda Bradford of Colony (Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

Rhonda Brewer is the manager of the center and she reflected, “It’s important for us to celebrate Juneteenth here in Cullman County. This is the only senior center of color in Cullman County. I felt like it was important for us to recognize the holiday. These seniors are all about moving forward. We don’t live in the past, but we won’t forget the past. We are moving forward.”

The Colony Senior Center is located at 12980 US Hwy 91 and is open on Mondays – Fridays from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

For more information on senior centers in your area, please visit www.co.cullman.al.us/coa/senior-centers.html or call the Cullman County Commission on Aging at 256-734-1241.

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