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Juneteenth

People attend a Juneteenth celebration June 15 at the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn.

Celebrate! Diverse Auburn’s Juneteenth planning team would like to thank everyone who helped make our 2019 commemoration of Juneteenth, also known as African American Independence Day, such an inspiring and moving celebration. With Harriet Tubman lifting her lantern over the beautiful plaza of the NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center (ERHC), the community of Auburn came together!

The goals of the event were to educate visitors about Juneteenth, commemorate and celebrate the end of slavery, honor the history and culture of African Americans and inspire everyone to do the work for racial justice that is still left to do. We are grateful to all who helped make these goals a reality. Thanks especially to Nucor, whose generous grant made this event possible, the ERHC for integrating Juneteenth into their Market Saturday activities, and our MC, John McLeod.

Quadir Muntaqim kicked off the event by leading a drumming circle as Celebrate! Diverse Auburn began serving red velvet cupcakes and strawberry soda, traditional Juneteenth treats.

Then Auburn Mayor Michael Quill read a Proclamation declaring June 19, 2019, Juneteenth in the City of Auburn. The Proclamation was presented to Harriet Tubman great-great-grandniece Pauline Copes Johnson who told the diverse crowd that Aunt Harriet would be very proud to see this event happening in her hometown.

Thanks also to the Rev. Paul Carter and the Rev. Patrick Heery for their inspiring words and to Melody Johnson for leading the crowd in singing the African American National Anthem.

Musical guests included the Auburn Community Choir, who made a joyful noise with their stirring Gospel selections, and local folk orchestra Flock of Free Range Children, who played pieces created or selected especially for Juneteenth.

As we eyed storm clouds moving in from the west, Ithaca duo SingTrece and Kenneth McLaurin took the stage. Kenneth’s humor was deftly woven into his impassioned words about Juneteenth and combined with SingTrece’s powerful, soulful and resonant voice to create a magical moment on the plaza. The crowd seemed to lean in as one as we were drawn in and united by this powerful performance.

Capping off the event was the Unity Street Band, who had us marching to When the Saints Go Marching In and sent us home humming We Shall Overcome as the clouds opened. Just further confirmation that God’s hand had blessed this event and given Auburn a Juneteenth to remember. See you all next year!

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Debra Rose Brillati lives in Auburn. All thank you letters are reprinted as submitted.

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