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On Saturday, June 19, New Rochelle celebrated for the first time as a federal holiday, Juneteenth – Passion and Perseverance with a well-attended community wide celebration. Events took place in three locations – Ward Acres, City Hall and Thomas Paine Cottage Museum. Festivities began at 9am at Ward Acres Community Garden with presentations about the oldest African American holiday by historian Barbara Davis and Councilmember Yadira Ramos-Herbert. Visitors also participated in a T’ai Chi workshop, enjoyed storyteller Thelma Thomas and toured the community garden, concluding with breakfast refreshments.
The next stop was New Rochelle City Hall, the centerpiece of the festivities, which began at Noon with 10 dancers and drummers from the Bokandeye African American Dance Theater processing up the front walkway to City Hall signaling the official start of the celebration. New Rochelle native Kay Boyd took to the mic and sang the anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing as the Juneteenth flag was raised by The Lincoln Park Conservancy Board President Stuart Reid with Mayor Noam Bramson and NYS Senator and Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins looking on. Also attending, along with a crowd of over 250, were NYS Senator Shelley Mayer, NYS Assemblymembers Steve Otis and Amy Paulin, County Executive George Latimer, Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins, County Clerk Tim Idoni, County Legislators Terry Clements, Damon Maher and Catherine Parker, and New Rochelle Councilmember Yadira Ramos-Herbert.
The more than 2-hour event continued with performances by New Rochelle’s own Rocky Middleton Ensemble and the Wayne Henderson Jazz Sextet which added a vibe of summer concert feeling for the many people who were happy to be outside listening to top-notch entertainment, close to home. Other acts included: soloist Lucia Jackson and percussionist Ron Jackson who provided music for dancers Sarita Apel and Andres Bravo, and a beautifully choreographed Hip-Hop dance by Steven Vilsaint. Original spoken word poems written by NRHS students Solomon Darden and Darrin Greaves were performed and ALMS student DJ Smithyboy provided the music. A quilt making workshop for kids of all ages was conducted by artist Richela Fabian Morgan and
Juneteenth – A Narrative of Freedom exhibit was open to the public during the event. Interdenominational prayers by Pastor Mark McLean, Imam Mohamed Shaffieq Chace, Rabbi Jessica Fisher and Reverend Wallace Noble opened and closed the event.
The last stop on the Culturefest train was the Thomas Paine Cottage Museum and the Paine Memorial Building which started at 3pm and boasted activities for the entire family including a scavenger hunt, Juneteenth arts & crafts, Juneteenth videos for kids, historic presentations, an art exhibit, a play reading, a performance by Capoeira Luanda – New Rochelle and a screening of the film Soul Food. There was also a table of red desserts a symbol of Juneteenth signifying the blood that was shed during slavery.
Organized by The Lincoln Park Conservancy, Inc. and the City of New Rochelle with support from New Rochelle’s IDA/CLD, and Westchester County, the celebration will hopefully become an annual event. Community partners representing the New Rochelle NAACP, the Interreligious Council of New Rochelle, Ward Acres Community Garden, the Huguenot & New Rochelle Historical Association, the New Rochelle Council on the Arts, Westchester Alliance of Black School Educators, WestCOP, as well as a member of New Rochelle City Council and Board Members of The Lincoln Park Conservancy came together to plan the historic event which commemorates the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865.
The Lincoln Park Conservancy, Inc., a 501c3 community organization in New Rochelle, NY, has as its mission to preserve, document, educate and promote the rich history of the Lincoln Avenue Corridor and its connection, both historically and present-day, to the larger community of the City of New Rochelle and beyond.