A Juneteenth celebration of Black experience

Perkins will host this year to raise awareness of holiday’s history.

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/The Sun: Moorestown’s third annual Juneteenth celebration this month will bring the community together by honoring the holiday’s significance as the unofficial end of slavery.

Moorestown’s third annual celebration of Juneteenth will be held at Perkins Center for the Arts on June 18 and will include guest speakers, artists and a special performance by the Essence of Harmony Choral Society.

Juneteenth marks the unofficial end of slavery in the U.S. and is a holiday that emphasizes education and achievement. According to juneteenth.com, it can also be a time for assessment, self-improvement and planning for the future.

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Jasmine Cartwright and Ashlynn Conley, co-organizers of the local Juneteenth event, got the idea after meeting in June 2020 to protest the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Juneteenth’s first festival was held that same month.

“We didn’t leave each other’s side during the entire protest,” Cartwright recalled. “We really, together, felt that energy so much and we wanted it to keep going.” 

Conley emphasized how she and Cartwright wanted to do more for the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We wanted to keep Black excellence and people aware that it wasn’t just going to stop at one thing,” she explained. “We didn’t want to stop having awareness of the death of George Floyd, but we also wanted more community involvement in the Black Lives Matter protest and … more awareness and education about (the movement) in itself.”

Cartwright explained what residents can expect this year.

“Every year, we have vendors, we have musicians, artists, and then everyone comes and joins in as a community; it’s beautiful,” she said. “We all talk about what the festival is actually about … It’s a beautiful time for everyone to come together, get educated, and also support each other and enjoy each other’s presence.”

Cartwright looks forward to engaging with residents in a different way since the first celebration.

“It’s really exciting this year as the COVID mandates are not as severe,” she noted. “We had to really be serious about masks and distance and the amount of people before, so it’s really exciting now that we can have more people included.”

Perkins’ Executive Director Kahra Buss praised Cartwright and Conley’s efforts in bringing Juneteenth to friends, families and neighbors.

“I think it’s a really exciting time to see how this particular event has evolved over the last three years,” she said. “I think what I’m most excited about is the opportunity to connect with more people and more people within the community, and to learn.”

“The backbone of the holiday is about celebration and also education,” Buss added. “I think it is a terrific time and a terrific opportunity for everyone in our community to learn more about it, to become more aware and to become involved and share in that celebration.”

Conley discussed hers and Cartwright’s vision in bringing the festival to the community.

“The first year was really more about education, because it’s the first celebration of Juneteenth in Moorestown,” she observed. “We really wanted people to know what it was, why it was celebrated and what it meant for us as a community to celebrate it together.”

She and Cartwright shared what they’re anticipating on June 18, specifically a project at Perkins that will be completed in the fall.

“This year, we have created a planter that is going to be made during the event, so we’re creating tiles that (are) going to map out the Black American flag, and people at the event can paint titles and put them on the planter,” Conley said. 

“It’s a huge planter that’s going to be on the grounds of Perkins,” she added. “It’s going to be decorated with the Black American flag, and I think that is amazing.”

Juneteenth will begin at 10 a.m.

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