‘Like a family’: Auburn-area residents celebrate Juneteenth | Local News | Auburn, NY | Auburnpub.com

AUBURN – With a statue of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman looking over the crowd, city residents kicked off the third day of its biggest-ever Juneteenth celebration.

Over 60 people attended the ceremony that officially started Auburn’s Juneteenth events Saturday at the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center, where the statue of former city resident Tubman greets visitors.

Juneteenth acknowledges the June 19, 1865, announcement in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished, though the Emancipation Proclamation had become official two years prior. Last year, President Joe Biden signed a bill declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday.

The ceremony at the heritage center was one of many Juneteenth festivities in Auburn. Saturday’s events included a parade and a Juneteenth youth celebration at the Booker T. Washington Community Center.

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Bill Berry, chair of the Harriet Tubman Center for Justice and Peace, spoke to the crowd at the center about the history of Juneteenth and systematic challenges Black people have faced in America.

“Today is our legacy. Juneteenth will always be celebrated by us in honor of us, recognizing the perseverance, faith and courage of our ancestors. It is an American day of remembrance,” he said.

Other speakers at the event included Cayuga County Legislator Brian Muldrow, who is the first Black county legislator, Legislature Chair David Gould, Auburn Mayor Mike Quill and The Rev. Paris Price of the Harriet Tubman Memorial AME Zion Church. Price held a libation ceremony with liquid to honor Tubman. Gould read a proclamation on Juneteenth. Jacqueline Harris performed the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is often called the “Black National Anthem.”

After that event ended, attendees walked across the street to Memorial City Hall, where various groups were getting ready for the parade, which was Auburn’s first for Juneteenth. Children with the Booker T. Washington Center and performers from the Auburn Junior High school and Auburn High school bands and Auburn Vanguard Color Guard were part of the parade, along with law enforcement and others.

Clarissa Milton, her daughter Giselle Milton, LaWanda Watts and Tori Alford, who all attended the parade, expressed happiness that Juneteenth celebrations were being held in the city. Watts, who is from Auburn, said Juneteenth events in the city of this level have only been happening recently.

“It’s about time,” Watts said.

“We feel more united with the community,” said Clarissa Milton.

Watts and Clarissa Milton said Juneteenth was important to them when they were younger, so it was weird for them not to see that reflected in Auburn.

Watts said she believes the festivities served as something for people to do and was an opportunity to teach their children about different identifies, backgrounds and holidays.

“I think it’s a good look for this community,” Clarissa said.

The parade procession made its way to the Booker T. Washington Center, on Chapman Avenue. The youth celebration had no shortage of people, especially children, scurrying around and chatting with each other.

Activities include carnival games, an inflatable obstacle course, face painting and more. Wegmans contributed food, supplies and volunteers to the proceedings. Food trucks and vendors were available as people with gigawatt grins darted across the area.

Community singers provided music, basically holding a concert on stage. Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck gave children who came by him badges, declaring them junior deputies. With one badge left, Schenck put it on a child with vibrant green face paint.

Trevor Ash, Hakeem Ali and Robert Barnes, who all went to the community center when they were younger, said they were impressed with all of the commotion around them.

“I think it’s good to see all of us come together as a community,” Ali said. “A lot of times, communities don’t always get a chance to do that.”

Ash said he was glad to see people together to collaborate on the event, noting that people of different races were present.

“It’s good to just see more stuff coming along, especially with what’s going on in the world, so it’s just beautiful to see everybody come together and celebrate Black people and the history,” Ash said.

Going off of that, Ali motioned to the families and visitors across the community center’s yard.

“You look around right now, you see nothing but smiles, nothing but people being happy, nothing but healthy families,” he said.

Vendor Jsynine McLeod held down the fort at the table for her business Jsy’Neem & Things, which had beads, oils and additional items. Noting how “culturally rich” Auburn is, since it was Tubman’s final resting place and includes sites such as the Case Mansion and the Seward House Museum, she said she wishes it hadn’t taken so long for such huge events for Juneteenth to be held. in Auburn.

“There’s so much here, as far as culture, for Juneteenth to play off of,” McLeod said.

Nevertheless, she added she is glad these festivities are happening now. She said she knew a lot of the attendees at the celebration, and added that she felt it was reminiscent of community events in Auburn from years ago. Even though she and other vendors had goods at the event, McLeod said it didn’t feel like business.

“It feels like a family,” she continued.

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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