The Cherry Hill African American Civic Association (CHAACA) will celebrate the end of slavery with its second annual Juneteenth celebration on Saturday at Croft Farm.
Though Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 and a Texas holiday in 1979, some African American communities acknowledged the year slavery ended as 1863, after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. But it took two years for word of emancipation to spread through the divided country, and it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that the last slaves in Texas learned of their freedom.
Thus the Juneteenth holiday – the official end of slavery.
“Basically it (the Emancipation Proclamation) said, ‘If you’re an enslaved African American, only the slaves in the states that succeeded in the Union, if they are not back by Jan 1, 1863, I’m freeing them,’ explained Cathleen Jenkins, co-chair of the Juneteenth committee and financial secretary of the CHAACA.
“So African Americans waited then (on New Year’s Eve), to see if they would be freed.”
Jenkins and Emma Waring, the CHAACA’s parliamentarian, noted that some African Americans were long unaware of Juneteenth, but had celebrated the memory of Dec. 31, 1862, also known as “Freedom’s Eve” with Watch Night Services at Black churches. As Juneteenth became more well known in the last 10 to 20 years, it was celebrated by Black communities and people everywhere.
“This was like the Black Fourth of July, so all the things you think about for the Fourth of July would be celebrated,” Jenkins said.
“I think that even in the African American community, there were a lot of people who really didn’t know about Juneteenth,” said Anita Wade, treasurer of the CHAACA. “So now, the fact that it’s being celebrated is definitely a source of pride and it lends to a feeling of belonging. It’s something we have in common.”
“Last year, the crowd was so diverse,” Jenkins noted of the local celebration. “You could see that the larger community didn’t view it as a Black holiday; they viewed it as a celebration of an American holiday that we needed to celebrate.
“ … That was important to us. We wanted to highlight the contributions of African Americans, but we wanted to make sure that the celebration of what African Americans accomplished was celebrated by everyone.”
The Juneteenth event kicks off with Soulful Yoga, by Karen Taylor Bass, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., followed by a parade at 10 a.m. and festivities that include food trucks, music and a petting zoo until 5 p.m.