ROSEWOOD — Emotional. Historic.

Those are just two words that could be used to describe the scene Sunday afternoon in Rosewood, as the descendants of the eight surviving families gathered with a number of others to honor the lives lost in the 1923 Rosewood massacre during the Remembering Rosewood wreath laying ceremony. This month marks 100 years since the massacre occurred.

Hundreds of people could be seen at the ceremony, some even traveling via charter bus from various parts of the state including Gainesville, Jacksonville, etc. The event was organized by the Descendants of Rosewood Foundation and hosted by host sponsor and Florida International University professor, Marvin Dunn.

Dunn was also one of several speakers to take to the podium during the roughly two-hour ceremony.

“This many Black folks have not been in Rosewood since the massacre,” he said, while addressing the crowd in attendance.

Other speakers at the event included: Gainesville City Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, who was also the keynote speaker; former state Sen. Tony Hill, who introduced Chestnut; chaplin Elvin Lee Jr., also a descendant; and more.

In addition to the speakers, Sunday’s event also featured a musical performance by the Rosewood Family Choir, which led into a soil ceremony. The ceremony was performed by Lee as well as Nii Sowa-La and Dr. D. Ayoka Jasey Sowa-La.

Following the soil ceremony, a wreath, displaying red roses and white flowers with a bow tied in the center, was then carried by Gregory and Paris Doctor, founders of the Descendants of Rosewood Foundation, up to where an old railroad track used to operate on the property. The track played a vital role in helping get escapees out of the town via train.

As the wreath was placed on the track, Gregory and Paris were joined by Dunn as well as men and women representing both the Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge of Florida and Jerusalem Grand Chapter Order of the Eastern Star.

“It was very emotional to be standing on that railroad track with him (Gregory) and the others for those few minutes to lay that wreath,” Dunn said.

Following the laying of the wreath, Hon. Jeffery G. Jones, Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge of Florida, took to the podium to give special remarks close to the end of the ceremony.

“Rosewood is not our history,” he said. “Rosewood is American history.”

As the event neared its conclusion, Dunn took to the podium once more to encourage people to help preserve the history of the land by making a contribution.

Paris and Gregory also said a few words as the ceremony wrapped up, noting some of the upcoming events that are scheduled for this week.

“I’m just so grateful that we all came out together, collectively,” Gregory said.

The event ended with a closing prayer.

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