By DENISE HERSCHEL
Juneteenth, also called Emancipation Day or Juneteenth Independence Day, is a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, observed annually on June 19.
This year, Neptune and Asbury Park have coordinated a joint effort to hold a grand Juneteenth Day celebration complete with music, food and drink, performances, speakers, and other activities. The two-day event will take place Fri., June 18, and Sat., June 19 at Midtown Commons Park, West Lake Avenue and Route 35, in Neptune.
“When the planning committees in both Neptune and Asbury Park realized that both were organizing celebrations, it made sense to coordinate our efforts and celebrate together. We are organized under the slogan, ‘Different Addresses, One Community.’ Because of the close proximity of Neptune and Asbury Park, citizens know each other well and often collaborate and support each others’ activities and events,” according to Dianna Harris, chair of the Neptune Black History Month Planning Committee.
The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, slaves were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. Texas became the first state to make it a state holiday in 1980 and last year, New Jersey established Juneteenth Day as an official state holiday, joining numerous other states across the country.
Harris said that this is the first year that Neptune is celebrating Juneteenth Day. Asbury Park has been holding Juneteenth celebrations for three years. Harris is spearheading the Neptune events while Reverend Semaj Vanzant, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Asbury Park, is spearheading the events in Asbury Park.
“The Neptune Black History Month Planning Committee has organized Black History Month celebrations for Neptune Township for 18 years. When our state officially established the Juneteenth Day holiday, the committee thought it would be appropriate to organize a celebration as well,” she said. “New Jersey has a very diverse population. Black History Month and Juneteenth Day are vehicles to help all New Jersey citizens better understand about black people’s continuing struggle for equality and justice and to learn more about the contributions that black people have made to American history and culture.”
The two-day celebration will start on Friday, June 18 at Midtown Commons Park from 8 pm to 10:30 p.m. with a movie night featuring “Green Book.” On Saturday, June 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. a Juneteenth Kick-Off Celebration will take place at the park with speakers, music, poetry, rap, snacks, free t-shirts, and flags. At 1 p.m. the event will continue with a Youth Parade from the park in Neptune to Springwood Avenue in Asbury Park. From 2 pm to 6 pm, “A Festival for Culture” will take place at Springwood Avenue Park with music, food and drinks, vendors, performances, activities, speakers, COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and kids’ corner.
For more information contact Dianna Harris at 732-988-4400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org