Gainesville-born poet Doris davenport decided long ago to lowercase the d in her last name as a statement of sorts about her independence of thought and freedom from what others would expect from her.
She’ll bring that attitude Saturday when davenport returns to her roots for a recital as part of the Juneteenth celebration in Gainesville.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. It marks the moment when Union soldiers let it be known in Texas, and other parts of the South where men were still enslaved, that the war had ended and all slaves were free — more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Although she’s not penned a poem specifically for Saturday’s Juneteenth event, davenport said most of her poetry in the 10 books she’s published evoke the spirit of Juneteenth.
“I think, since the focus of Juneteenth really is the freedom of African-Americans and the culture of African-Americans, I would have to say most of my poetry is celebrating black culture. I would say 80 percent of those poems somehow have a celebratory or positive reflection on something to do with African-American culture and history.”
The poet attended Fair Street Elementary School and had many friends in Gainesville, although she grew up in Cornelia and now lives in Cleveland. She wrote her first short story when she was 12 and illustrated her first book 30 years later.
Davenport has a Ph.D, in African-American literature from the University of Southern California.
Her two younger siblings will also participate in Juneteenth. Sister Audrey Davenport will speak on “knowing your roots,” and Sandra Davenport will do a presentation on biblical support for health.
Juneteenth will have live music, including R&B and Motown favorites, along with spirituals by local church choirs, and booths with art, crafts and food.
It starts at 4 p.m and goes into the night at 682 Grove St. (the Greenway behind the Gainesville Public Safety Complex).