Did you know that this Friday is a New Jersey state holiday commemorating Juneteenth Day?Thanks to one of our District 15 State Assemblymembers, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, and two of her colleagues who co-sponsored the legislation creating the holiday, New Jersey will, for the first time this year, recognize the third Friday of June each year going forward as a day of remembrance and reflection.
According to local authors Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills, “Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.” While the Emancipation Proclamation had become official January 1, 1863, it was not until June 19, 1865 that Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas to deliver the news that “the war had ended and the enslaved were now free.” The first celebration of Juneteenth occured the following year.
In a statement at the time the NJ law was signed, in September 2020, Reynolds-Jackson and her co-sponsors stated: “Juneteenth was a defining moment in American History claiming the beginning of African American independence in this country. It is time for the commemoration of a pivotal moment in history to become an official state holiday, underscoring its importance to our communities and giving time for reflection on how far we have come and have to go to achieve equality and justice for all.”
To commemorate the day, the Hopewell Valley Arts Council will sponsor a film screening and talk by representatives of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum on Friday at Woolsey Park.
The weekend also will see a huge celebration in Trenton, sponsored by District 15, the Trenton African American Cultural Collaborative, (TAACC) and the Outdoor Equity Alliance (OEA), which is an affiliate of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (OEA). The celebration starts with an invitation-only kick off Friday.Saturday, events will occur all over Trenton and extending into the Hopewell Valley. On Sunday, a gospel concert will take place in Mill Hill Park.
At a press conference last week, FoHVOS Executive Director Lisa Wolff noted just a few of the events that will be available to the public this weekend. She said that Mercer County Parks will celebrate “the rich but forgotten history of the Black Cowboys” at the Mercer County Equestrian Center on Federal City Road in Hopewell Township, 11-2 on Saturday. That event, she said will “shed light on the valuable contribution that African Americans have to the history and lore of the old west.”
A bike rally will take off from Trenton at 9am on Saturday with a choice for riders of an 8-mile ride, a 30-mile ride, or a 50-mile ride. The 50-mile ride will pass through the Hopewell Valley, stopping at Hopewell Elementary and then Bear Tavern Elementary, where riders will be given snacks and drinks. Local elementary school students and their families have volunteered to come cheer on the riders during the late morning.
Wolff further stated that, “in paying homage to the rich history and sheer survival of enslaved Americans, the OEA will be featuring a tasting of some of the foods that were not only created by these Americans but that sustained them and are still enjoyed today. Local Chef Don ‘Post’ Leake, will be preparing these dishes to honor the freedom that this Juneteenth celebration represents.”
Throughout the day on Saturday, two stages in Trenton will feature music and dance acts. There will be vendors selling food and booths promoting healthy living, as well as educational opportunities, community dancing events, trivia contests, and other fun activities.
For more information, check out the TAACC website at https://www.taacf.com/schedule/
Edited 6/18 – thanks to a sharp eyed reader for noting a typo in the date of the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s fixed now.
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