The June 25 celebration in northern Chautauqua County opened with the theme “We created it” recognize the history of slavery and the endurance of African Americans in the United States.
“The month of June now coincides with July 4 as a national holiday celebrating the ideals and promises of our America”, Loretta Slaton Torain said after opening ceremonies for the recent local Juneteenth celebration at Memorial Park.
“It seems so extraordinary to celebrate Juneteenth as our nation’s second Independence Day,” she said. “And yet, so ordinary in the way we are righteous, regular and honest, we are finally joining the promise of 1776 that we are all created equal on the date marking the end of black slavery in our country.”
Over the weekend, Ms Slaton Torain estimated that nearly a thousand people attended the 25th anniversary celebration, which included food, live music, games and activities for the whole family. , information kiosks, vendors, a poetry slam, a corn hole tournament, ice cream tasting competition, African percussion and gospel service.
The celebration opened with a prayer from Connor Aitcheson and proclamations from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas, and extended remarks by Dr Stephen Kolison, President of Fredonia State University . Fredonia Mayor Doug Essek was in attendance as was Beth Starks, Director of the North County Center at Jamestown Community College. New York Senator George Borello was also present and honored the day and the attendees. Ms Slaton Torain and Ms Tasha Coleman followed with a memorial tribute to community members who helped kick off the local Juneteenth celebration, now in its 25th year, and to the loved ones of the attendees.
Rosa’s proclamation of the city, said, “Juneteenth remembers the freedom of African Americans and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a time of reflection and rejoicing, as well as a time of assessment, self-improvement and planning for the future. “The mayor said that”recognizing our past helps us understand what we all need to do as a society to improve ourselves; and Juneteenth is a time to honor and remember the unwavering spirit and countless contributions of generations of African Americans. The mayor concludes, “June is a day when we all take one more step together – to make better use of the energy wasted because of racism. “
Kolison asked the crowd to imagine the debut of Juneteenth.
He reminded everyone that while President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved blacks in the Confederate states on January 1, 1863, those enslaved in Texas were not in the current of the proclamation of emancipation and their freedom until June 19, 1865.
“As you know, today marks a very special occasion. Today is Juneteenth – one day we recognize the journey of emancipation of African Americans. A day when people in slavery learned, two years later, for the first time, that the civil war was over and the slaves were freed. “Can you imagine what that day must have been 156 years ago? Was there any screaming that day in Galveston, Texas that sounded like the Negro Spiritual “Finally free, finally free, thank God, are we finally free?” “
“We can only imagine that it must have been a happy day. A day to remember and celebrate. A day that will later become a national holiday. …
Dr Kolison linked Juneteenth to the present and to the value and promise of education.
“Juneteen represents a lot, including the possibility of socio-economic empowerment through higher education. It also means seeking the absence of health and income disparities, which disproportionately affect minorities. These disparities can be bridged by pursuing higher education. Higher education paves the way for a better socio-economic status for all of us.
“June”, concluded Ms. Slaton Torain, “Is a way for our community to come together every year and celebrate freedom”We created it“; and follow it up with July 4th very soon after we truly celebrate and appreciate our independence.