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Honoring the Legacy: The 26th Annual Spirit of Freedom Celebration

The life and times of African Americans who served in the U.S. Civil War will be on the educational agenda of Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) students during the 26th Annual Spirit of Freedom Celebration on May 14.

About 800 fifth- and sixth-grade IPS students will gather at its new location, the historic American Legion Mall in Indianapolis from 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., to learn about the rich history of life in the mid-1800s as portrayed by reenactors.

The annual event stands as a beacon of remembrance and education for students and the wider community, said Dr. Pat Payne, director of the district’s Office of Racial Equity and Inclusion.

“The Spirit of Freedom Celebration is not just an event. It’s a testament to the indomitable spirit of African-American Civil War soldiers who bravely fought for their freedom and the freedom of generations to come,” Payne said. “When we gather at the American Legion Mall, we honor their courage, resilience, and unwavering commitment to justice. The agenda for this year’s celebration promises to be a moving tribute to our ancestors and a celebration of their enduring legacy.”

Opening ceremonies begin at 10:45 a.m. and include:

● Welcome

○ Greetings by Rev. Strong, portrayed by the talented Tim Reed, who will guide participants through the day’s events.

● Drum Call by IPS All-City Drumline

○ Feel the rhythmic heartbeat of the community as talented IPS student musicians pay homage to the soldiers of yesteryears.

● Posting of Colors by George Washington High School JROTC Color Guard

○ Witness the solemnity and dignity of this ceremony to the nation’s flag and those who served under it.

● “Negro National Anthem” performed by Lay Male Chorus

○ Students will hear the powerful voices of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Lay Male Chorus.

● Remarks by Distinguished Guests

○ Students and their teachers will listen to inspiring words from esteemed leaders including IPS Supt. Dr. Aleesia Johnson, and Commander Gonzales Calloway of AMVETS Post 99.

● Retire Colors by George Washington High School JROTC Color Guard

○ The symbolic conclusion of the ceremony will be evidenced as the colors are respectfully retired.

In addition to a working Civil War-era Gatling gun, students will learn lessons from various reenactors portraying historical characters including the Rev. Strong (Tim Reed); Dr. Gatling, inventor of the Gatling Gun (Mike Marsh); Harriet Tubman, an agent for the Underground Railroad and spy for the U.S. Army (Portia Jackson); Sarah Elizabeth Brown Cuffee, a freeborn seamstress (Michelle Mimms); Pvt. Stephen King, a drummer for the 28th Indiana Colored Infantry (Komoyaka King); and, President Abraham Lincoln (Danny Russel).

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