Reddick couple shares Black history collection
Rev. Leroy S. Chandler of Shamgar Ministries Pathways To Freedom describes Minillas, a type of money used in slave trade, center, as a slave ankle restraint, left, and a slave collar, right, are shown at his home on County Road 318 in Reddick, Fla. on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Chandler will bring many of his African American history artifacts to be on display in the Shamgar Pathways To Freedom exhibit at Master The Possibilities next week from Tuesday, June 22, to Friday, June 25, 2021. His exhibit will be part of the Juneteenth celebration in Ocala. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
The Rev. Leroy Chandler was volunteering at a state prison, like he and his ministry often did, in 2003 when someone asked if he could give a presentation in celebration of Black History Month.
Chandler, who lives in Reddick, was happy to do it but hoped to brush up on the subject. Despite it being February, the month in which Black History Month is celebrated, Chandler couldn’t find any exhibits in either Alachua or Marion County.
The experience led him to start amassing his own collection that now includes more than 2,000 artifacts that he exhibits across the state. The next stop for the display is at Master the Possibilities, a learning center at On Top of the World.
The exhibit, which runs from June 22-25, coincides with Juneteenth celebrations that recognize the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order by President Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves.
Chandler’s collection is displayed throughout the learning center’s Live Oak and Cypress Halls, where visitors are welcome to browse the artifacts which recount more than 150 years of Black history.
“It’s hard to find a venue that I can set it up at so that actually all of it can be viewed,” Chandler said.
It would take more than 5,000-square-feet and more than 100 8-foot tables to accommodate the massive collection.
Because of the collection’s size, only portions are displayed. However, Chandler has selected some of the most relevant pieces to display.
Visitors can expect to be taken on a journey from the beginning of the slave trade through the Civil War and into the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras. There also are items showcasing the triumphs of Black Americans, including the election of President Barack Obama, Chandler said.
“As we start off, we go into something that’s very ugly and deary and so forth,” Chandler said. “But as you make the journey, we come out of that journey with some positive things.”
Some of Chandler’s collection, which was gathered by him and his wife, Emma, while traveling to locations of significance in Black history, includes collars and anti-escape devices that were used to restrain the enslaved. Other pieces come from Kenya and Zimbabwe, Chandler said.
The exhibit also features a 130-foot wall, which will be on display outside. The wall displays photos and readings which take visitors through the timeline of slavery and Black history.
“It’s quite a journey,” Chandler said. “The people, whether young or old, are going to be able to see some things, handle some things and so forth. Some of the good is there. Some of the bad is there, and some of the very ugly is there. It’s all there as you walk through this journey.”
The Shamgar Pathways to Freedom Exhibit will be on display from June 22-25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On June 24, the center will stay open until 7 p.m.
Chandler’s exhibit is free to the public. For more information, contact the Master the Possibilities learning center at 352-861-9751 or visit masterthepossibilities.org.
Other local Juneteenth events scheduled for June 19 include:
• R.A.M.A.L. Educational and Social Services is presenting a Juneteenth celebration dinner and dance at the Ocala Ballroom, 108 N. Magnolia Ave., from 7-11 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person and $60 per couple. Limited tickets are available at the door.
• The First Annual Juneteenth Freedom Celebration is scheduled for Webb Field, 1501 W. Silver Springs Blvd., from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will feature food, vendors and entertainment. The free event is presented by the Ocala Juneteenth Celebration Commission.