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Juneteenth celebration set at Cookhouse Museum

Submitted by The Pea Island Preservation Society, Inc.    

The Pea Island Preservation Society, Inc., (PIPSI) is pleased to announce that on June 19, 2021, at 5 p.m., Tshombe Selby, a beloved native of Manteo, will help celebrate Juneteenth, the end of slavery in America, with an afternoon concert, The Sounds of Freedom, at the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum at Collins Park. Tshombe, a tenor who made his debut at Carnegie Hall and who now performs at the Metropolitan Opera House, will use the front porch of the museum to sing spirituals and other songs to celebrate freedom. This free outdoor event is being held in collaboration with the Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series and with sponsor support from TowneBank, Island Xpertees and Outer Banks Dreams Realty. Please save the date and plan to come.

The concert is being held to remember the importance of Juneteenth, a day the story of Richard Etheridge who grew up enslaved on Roanoke Island, so tellingly reminds us of. Etheridge, the nation’s first black keeper in the US Life-Saving Service and the historic all-black station he commanded, Station Pea Island, is a stark reminder of Juneteenth. The concert is also to encourage volunteers, membership and financial support for our organization.

Our organization has made progress in making this part of the black history of Roanoke Island known. Our Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes live program has been presented at numerous locations on the Outer Banks. It is now presented at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island during the summer and for special occasions. For the past three years, our live program has been presented to fourth graders at all Dare County elementary schools. For Black History Month this year, we held our first essay contest for fourth grade students and we are now developing a virtual learning program to pilot in a third grade classroom next school year. Up until the current pandemic, the visitors and groups at the Cookhouse Museum have been increasing and we expect more to visit when the museum re-opens in June. Our Facebook and web pages show our many successful outcomes. We are pleased to begin to make an impact, yet much is needed to preserve this history and make it widely known.

Unfortunately, most who live in or visit the Outer Banks are unaware of the story of Keeper Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers and its connection to slavery and freedom, or they never visit the Cookhouse Museum. This history has been overshadowed by other historical events the Outer Banks is most known for. Our goal is to change this. A celebration at the Cookhouse Museum is the perfect location to remember Juneteenth and to encourage more to learn and support the mission of our organization.

We want to continue to use innovative approaches such as commissioning musicians, artists and other professionals to help us raise awareness on the Outer Banks and beyond. We want to create more programs for children and youth, programs that encourage diversity and fair treatment. There are also several priority projects at the Cookhouse Museum we want to complete this year. They include improving museum displays, building much needed storage space, making structural improvements and adding a new memorial garden to the site. Adding a memorial garden – a project long overdue – is to honor the late Dellerva Collins, the first elected black commissioner of the Town of Manteo. Her vision and work were key to making the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum become a reality.

Tshombe Selby is a professional opera singer. He has been living and working in New York City the past several years. In 2015, he made his debut at Carnegie Hall as a tenor soloist. In 2019 one of his dreams came true when he first performed at the Metropolitan Opera House. Tshombe is a graduate of Elizabeth City State University, where he excelled as a tenor. Currently he is a second year graduate student at Binghamton University in New York where he is pursuing a master of voice degree. Prior to the 2020-21 season being canceled, Tshombe was performing at the Metropolitan Opera House with the ensemble for Porgy and Bess. He is scheduled to resume performing at the Met this fall. He has performed throughout the United States and abroad, but especially enjoys returning to the Outer Banks, his beloved hometown.

By helping us celebrate Juneteenth, becoming a member, volunteering or providing financial support, you can help us do more. Although the Juneteenth event is free, we are asking those who can to consider providing a cash or check donation. You can donate and/or become a member through our web page www.peaislandpreservationsociety.com or you can send a check to our organization at Pea Island Preservation Society, Inc., P.O. Box 217, Manteo, NC 27954.

We look forward to you joining us at the Cookhouse Museum on Juneteenth to hear The Sounds of Freedom. In June, July and August, the museum is open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. or by appointment for groups.

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