Home » Juneteenth commemorations taking place throughout the area next weekend

Juneteenth commemorations taking place throughout the area next weekend

by Amie Rukenstein

Juneteenth, now a national holiday, commemorates the end of slavery in the US. Specifically, it is a remembrance of the day in 1865 when soldiers reached Galveston, Texas – two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation – to let enslaved people know that they were free – a fact that the slaveholders had hidden until then. The area around Hopewell Valley has many Juneteenth events happening throughout the weekend and into Monday, the 19th.

Courtesy of https://www.ssaamuseum.org/

The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM), Central New Jersey’s only African American history museum sharing the history of Black Americans since the trans-Atlantic Slave trade, will hold its second annual Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 17, from 12 PM to 4 PM (rain or shine). 

Our Juneteenth celebration, “Freedom Forward,” is a family-friendly event that aims to educate, celebrate, and promote unity and cohesion within our culturally diverse community. The event will feature music by the Jon Ware Quintet featuring Gina Ware, a youth rock band from the Allegra School of Music and Arts, opera singer, Dr. Sonya Headlam, an original play written by Ryan Kilpatrick and performed by youth actors from the Allegra School of Music and Arts, original poetry by Olivia Altiidor, a youth poet from Hillsborough High School, a stone mosaic workshop from Emmy award-winning educator and artist, Dr. Ronah Harris and a family tree heritage workshop led by the Morven Museum. The event will feature classic African American barbecue from The Big Easy of Trenton and vegan food options from Mukolee Food Truck. The day will also feature a Juneteenth museum exhibit and activities in our Heritage Garden and tours of the grounds. This family-friendly event will have fun games and activities for all to enjoy. The event will take place at SSAAM, a National Historic-Registered Mt Zion AME church in Skillman and the adjacent True Farmstead, a historically African American-owned farmstead.

“If you attended SSAAM’s first Juneteenth event last year, you’ll certainly recall how amazing it was to celebrate this holiday of African American freedom from enslavement on the grounds of the historically African American-owned, True Farmstead. The farmstead was originally owned by Harry Reasoner, a Black Civil War veteran. His widow Corinda later married Spencer True, a descendant of Friday Truehart, an enslaved child who was taken from his mother Dinah in Charleston and brought to Hopewell Borough at the age of 13 years by the pastor of Old School Baptist Church,” said Executive Director Donnetta Johnson. 

She added: “In the early 1800s there were thirteen thousand enslaved people in New Jersey and Friday Truehart, the ancestor of our co-founder Beverly Mills and board member Pat Payne was amongst them. Friday gained his freedom in 1819. I can’t help but appreciate the importance of having the opportunity to recognize and honor the suffering, sacrifice and triumph of those enslaved African men, women and children whose skills, expertise and labor was instrumental in building the wealth of this region and indeed this country. It is outstanding that we get to celebrate Jubilee or Juneteenth, a day commemorating freedom, on the very grounds where the Reasoner and True families most certainly appreciated what it meant to be free from bondage and African American landowners in the Sourland region.”

On Saturday, June 17, free shuttle buses will run every 15 minutes from 11:45am through 3:15pm at Montgomery High School parking lot to and from the event on Hollow Road in Skillman. Limited parking will be available at the True Farmstead for the handicapped, those with limited mobility, event vendors and performers. All others should take the convenient shuttle buses. SSAAM invites all to come together and celebrate this special day of music, art, poetry, fun activities, food and join SSAAM in moving Freedom Forward. 

We would like to thank our event sponsors, Princeton University Art Museum, Montgomery Township, Bloomberg Corporation, Genmab and many local institutions, businesses and corporations for their generous support in making this event possible.

For more information on how to sponsor SSAAM’s Juneteenth “Freedom Forward,” purchase a vendor table, and tickets, please visit https://www.ssaamuseum.org/juneteenth. Adult general admission is $25 by online pre-sale only and $30 at the venue; tickets for children 14 and under are $15 presale and $20 at the venue.

Howell Living History Farm. On Saturday June 17, visitors can join historical interpreters on a free wagon ride and tour of the circa-1790 farmhouse where Revolutionary War-era New Jerseyans lived and farmed the land that now makes up Mercer County’s Pleasant Valley National Rural Historic District.

Tours begin at 10:30am in the barnyard—where visitors will board a wagon to travel down the driveway, across Moore’s Creek, and through the woods before disembarking at the Captain Henry Phillips House. There they’ll meet historical interpreters Ivey Avery of Trenton and Pete Curtis of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, who will be wearing period attire for a unique discussion of the history of the house and the people who lived in it before and after the 1804 passage of New Jersey’s Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery.

Avery and Curtis are experienced historical interpreters who have presented the lives of Black Americans throughout our history, in both first- and third-person styles. With additional support from Howell Farm historian Larry Kidder, they will guide visitors through the house and tell the story of Nance—an enslaved woman who lived there with her children—while also discussing the ways that other Black residents of Pleasant Valley lived before, during, and after the abolition of slavery in New Jersey. Following the tour, light refreshments will be served outside.

Wagon tours depart from the barnyard at 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, and 2:30, and are limited to 20 participants per session. Up to ten spaces per tour may be reserved online via the Mercer County CommunityPass Portal and the remaining ten will be kept available for walk-ins on a first-come, first-served basis.

Guided tours of the circa-1900 “Howell Farm farmhouse” will also be offered throughout the day, beginning at 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00. Tours of both farmhouses, as well as admission to the farm, are free. 

In Trenton:

On Monday, June 19, at 7 pm at Morven Museum & Garden, the Princeton Festival caps a day of events celebrating Juneteenth with a special performance by GRAMMY Award-winning, Metropolitan Opera star Will Liverman. The baritone performs art songs set to texts by Laurence Hope, Langston Hughes, and Louise C. Wallace, with music by Black composers, including Damien Sneed, Margaret Bonds, and Florence Price, with pianist Kevin Miller. Leading up to the vocal recital are a community Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony and the opening of the “Beyond Freedom” art installation at Morven’s Stockton Education Center featuring a talk by Arts Against Racism founder Rhinold Lamar Ponder. The Juneteenth Celebration is presented in partnership with the Municipality of Princeton. 

Will Liverman

Will Liverman had his “breakout performance” as Charles in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, during the Met’s 2021-22 season. With this role, he won the 2023 GRAMMY Award for Best Opera Recording. The Met announced that Liverman is to star in Anthony Davis’ X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X in the fall of 2023. This production is the second opera by a Black composer in the company’s history. Liverman is accompanied by American pianist and collaborator Kevin J. Miller. Most recently, Miller worked with international tenor Joseph Calleja and Nadine Sierra in a recital at the Supreme Court of the United States. He was also featured on NPR’s TIny Desk Concert Series while accompanying Joseph Calleja. 

At noon, the Municipality of Princeton invites the community to join officials during a brief flag-raising ceremony commemorating Juneteenth, outdoors at 1 Monument Hall. 

The “Beyond Freedom” exhibit opens at 2pm with Arts Against Racism founder Rhinold Lamar Ponder’s talk entitled, “Reclaiming Humanity Through Art.” The talk is a discussion of the role of the arts and creatives in the perpetual efforts to restate and reclaim the humanity of those impacted by the legacy of slavery and its aftermath. The free exhibit will be open to the public until 6pm Monday, and again on Wednesday, June 21, 5-7pm and Saturday, June 24, 4-6:30pm.

Tickets for the Will Liverman performance at Morven Museum and Garden are $20 for general admission, youths 5-17 receive a 50% discount with an adult purchase. Visit the Princeton Symphony Orchestra webpage at princetonsymphony.org or call (609) 497-0020.

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