Moorestown’s fourth annual Juneteenth celebration will be held at Perkins Center for the Arts on Saturday, June 17.
“The intent is to provide an afternoon of fellowship, community and celebration,” said Kahra Buss, Perkins’ executive director, of the event.
The 2 p.m. celebration will include food trucks, historical presentations and a StoryPad tent. Buss explained that because the StoryPad is an extension of Perkins’ Folklife Center, the oral histories collected during the Moorestown event and other Juneteenth commemorations that include StoryPad will be documented and archived for the state.
“These are educational pieces that will live on in the state archives, which I think is really important, especially surrounding an event like this, where people are contributing to the local history,” Buss noted.
Juneteenth marks the unofficial end of slavery in the U.S. and is a holiday that emphasizes education and achievement. Moorestown’s celebration was started by Jasmine Cartwright and Ashlynn Conley, who got the idea after meeting in June 2020 to protest the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
“We wanted to keep Black excellence and people aware that it wasn’t just going to stop at one thing,” Conley told The Sun. “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.”
While Cartwright and Conley no longer co-organize the Juneteenth event, the township keeps it going each year and will honor the women who brought it to Moorestown with a ceramic planter and mosaic tiles soon to be displayed on the grounds of Perkins.
“It really represents being able to have that here in a sacred and safe space for people to be in fellowship and to join together,” said Allison Hunt, Perkins’ director of education. “It’s that collaborative nature.”
Jonathan Leath, co-pastor at Moorestown’s Converge Church, will share the history of Juneteenth during the celebration. He compared the occasion to that of a big family reunion.
“Juneteenth is an American holiday,” he pointed out. “I think it’s something that we can say, while the atrocities that happened in our history were real … in order for us to heal as a nation, we have to acknowledge the past. But we have to forgive who needs to be forgiven and we have to move on.”
Nika Corbett, owner of Curate Noir in the Moorestown Mall, is a key collaborator of the event, which enables the community to discover local businesses that meet their needs.
“This is something that should be celebrated more frequently, but we want to take advantage of this moment to definitely bring people together in the community, so everybody walks away not only in a celebratory manner, but also educated,” she noted.
MooreUnity – a local nonprofit that strengthens connections in the community with its programming – is also a collaborator of the Juneteenth commemoration, where it will offer its program, Our Stories – Brave Conversations on Race.
“I look forward to the opportunity for people to connect with neighbors and friends that they don’t know, especially neighbors and friends who have a different cultural background than them,” said Karen Reiner, president of MooreUnity.
“I think this is a great opportunity for people to get to know somebody who has a different life experience.”
O’Sheila Eural, Perkins’ education and camp manager, is hopeful attendees will find the Juneteenth event’s silver lining.
“In a world where things don’t quite look positive,” she said, “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to have people come together and say, ‘Hey, bad things are happening, but it doesn’t mean that we cannot celebrate the good things.”