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An Impeccable Performance – The Heritage Ensemble Juneteenth, An American Celebration By Doris Symonds

The Heritage Ensemble exists to celebrate the culture and history of African Americans through music. We must agree that “Tearing Down Walls and Building Bridges Between All People” are the active elements that should bond human beings together in a world of uncertainty. On June 18, The Heritage Ensemble presented another fabulous performance at Illinois Central College under the direction of its extraordinary, devoted founder and artistic director, Mrs. Sharon Samuels Reed.

Bridge Builder Award – Sculpture by R. Rashad Reed
Doris Symonds accepting posthumous award for Elise Ford Allen

During the program, participants acknowledged Juneteenth-An American Celebration, featuring works of Glenn Edwards Burleigh, and presented the Bridge Builder Award posthumously to Mrs. Elise Ford Allen. Mr. LaColis Reed, Jr. showed great honor, respect, and admiration for Mrs. Allen as he shared the historical story of the prestigious award. Mrs. Doris Symonds accepted the award on behalf of the family who was attending the Juneteenth Celebration in Gum Springs, Virginia. History shows that Gum Springs was founded in 1833 by Mr. West Ford, a freedman and the great-great-great-grandfather of the Allen family. Mrs. Elise Ford Allen’s daughter, Mrs. Linda Hollis was the guest speaker at the Gum Springs event.

The entire audience was overwhelmingly pleased with all the melodies and musical ensemble by the Ensemble singers and musicians. The audience was enthralled viewing the professional recording, “Memorializing the Work of Glenn Edward Burleigh.” “The Heritage Ensemble will create an unforgettable memory that will keep this master composer’s work alive” as stated in the program.

The event ended with everyone receiving a cookie called the “Tea Cake” a simple dessert to celebrate Juneteenth. It’s the holiday celebrated in Black communities around the country that marks the date—June 19, 1865— when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally got word that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed. 

Mrs. Marguerite Ross, Judge Mary McDade, and Ms. Rachael Parker of Sweet Cakes by Rachael implemented their ideas and efforts to provide everyone with a simple delicious cookie experience known as the “Tea Cake” that slaves ate using substituted ingredients in the recipe.

The Heritage Ensemble continues to stay true to its mission: “To celebrate the culture and history of African Americans through music.”