By Akil Wilson, Special to the AFRO
This weekend Washington D.C. is preparing to celebrate the 156th anniversary of Emancipation Day, a day that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia on April 16, 1862.
“Its important to tell the story of the 3,100 enslaved African-Americans freed in the District before the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Angie Gates, Director of the Office of Cable Television Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME), which organized an entire day filled of emancipation celebration for April 14.
The OCTFME is a relatively new government agency established in 2015 that merged the District’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development and the Office of Cable Television with the addition of music and entertainment to form the agency charged with promoting all things creative in D.C.
“Mayor Bowser thought it was very important to broaden the scope of entertainment with a focus on the creative economy,” said Gates.
The OCTFME has partnered with several organizations and government agencies to produce “the biggest Emancipation Day concert yet” according to Gates. This year’s celebration, which is free to the public, will feature a parade beginning at 2:00 p.m. and concert at Freedom Plaza from 3:00 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. The event will feature food, live music and fireworks.
Although Emancipation Day celebrations have been taking place on some level in D.C. since 1866 it wasn’t until long time D.C. resident Loretta Carter Hanes began a campaign in the late 1980’s that Emancipation Day become an official holiday. In 1998 the first wreath laying ceremony was held at the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park. Since then the holiday has grown into a signature event for the District of Columbia.
Under the leadership of Gates the OCTFME has put together a program featuring well-known local and national acts, from R&B superstars Brandy and Angie Stone to go-go legends Rare Essence and up and coming local rap star Lightshow.
In addition to organizing large-scale events such as Emancipation Day the OCTFME, established in 2015, oversees many of the creative endeavors being promoted throughout the city. The OCTFME is currently introducing several initiatives to the city such as DCRadio 96.3 HD4, the District’s first official government radio station, and #202Creates, which engages residents through creative events and activities.
The Emancipation Day celebration will also be broadcast on the city’s government access channels; the District Council Channel (DCC), the District Knowledge Network (DKN) and the District of Columbia Network (DCN). For further information on the history of Emancipation Day visit emancipation.dc.gov.