The event will be steeped in Black history and culture
The Palmyra Riverton Cinnaminson Juneteenth committee is gearing up for its fourth annual celebration of the holiday this month.
The three towns are collaborating on festivities scheduled for Monday, June 19, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Cinnaminson’s Wood Park.
Committee members Michelle Ray, Michael Hunt, and Sheena Davis hope to enlighten the public about the history of Juneteenth, a federal holiday that acknowledges the date in 1865 when African Americans in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed from slavery, two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
New Jersey didn’t fully recognize Juneteenth – which has evolved into a celebration of Black culture – until 2021, a year after Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation that designates the third Friday in June as the state’s holiday observance.
The three towns’ celebration will acknowledge those who fought and died for freedom in America, but the overall goal of the holiday is to preserve Black history now and in future generations.
As part of the local commemoration, state Sen. Troy Singleton and other officials from Palmyra, Riverton and Cinnaminson will be on hand. The event will highlight Black and BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Color) ownership of businesses and their culture.
“It has been very fulfilling,” said Michael Hunt – a first-year committee member – of the holiday. “I’m feeling like we have the opportunity to still be able to tell the story of history with us as a people.”
“Of course planning a large event like this has its hiccups in regards to planning and coordinating between townships and also committees,” he added, “but with any event, it takes a lot of people coming together to make it a success.
“It is a welcomed challenging experience.”
Ray believes another takeaway from the three-town event will be knowledge about the holiday and its meaning.
“I think the public can expect to definitely be enlightened to what Juneteenth is about,” she noted.
Hunt said that Juneteenth guests will experience Black culture through dance, products for sale, Caribbean food and Black American cuisine steeped in Southern tradition.
Ray and her group, The B Smooth Band, will play at the June 19 event, and youth dancers will also perform culturally commemorative pieces that highlight the meaning and importance of the holiday.