Out & About: Hartford hosts in-person Juneteenth celebration

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2021 9:51:18 PM
Modified: 6/16/2021 9:51:25 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Hartford’s Committee on Racial Equity and Inclusion is holding an in-person Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the town and the committee to host its first such celebration virtually.

The event will take place from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at Lyman Point Park, located at 171 Bridge St. in White River Junction. It can also be watched live on CATV. Guest speakers will discuss the importance of Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. There will be performances by JAG Productions and Northern Stage. U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is among the speakers. It will be held rain or shine.

“This is really about education because most people thought the Emancipation Proclamation meant all slaves are free,” said Joe Major, the vice chairman of the Hartford Selectboard. “I’m excited about it and once again it’s about education. It’s about fellowship and it’s about acknowledging all our diversity and embracing it.”

When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, the United States was in the midst of the Civil War. It became official on Jan. 1, 1863, while the southern states that seceded from the U.S. to form the Confederacy were still fighting to keep enslaving African Americans and refused to acknowledge the order. On June 19, 1865 — 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect and two months after the Confederacy surrendered — enslaved people living in Texas were told that they were freed by Union General Gordon Granger, who had arrived in Galveston along with federal troops. The states ratified the 13th amendment, ending slavery, on Dec. 8, 1865.

“Juneteenth is a day that we as America have not celebrated enough. A lot of people don’t even know what it is and what it is about and I think that needs to change because it’s an extremely important day,” said Maggi Ibrahim, equity coordinator for the Hartford School District, who will be one of the speakers at the event. “It’s about acknowledging how far we’ve come and celebrating that, but it’s also about understanding that we still have a lot more we need to do, we have a lot more work we need to do and we have to do it together.”

Dia Draper, assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, will also be speaking at the event. The last 18 months have brought about a racial reckoning in the United States, as well as increased awareness about continuing racism in the country.

The celebration is focused on education and joy, she said.

“The event is about how do we honor history, how do we truth tell, but also how do we come together in fellowship to also sort of bring or experience joy,” Draper said. “As the number of diverse people in the Upper Valley increase, black and Pan African in particular, I do think that we are seeing the desire for diverse people to come together. I do think we’ve also seen the Upper Valley community largely respond with empathy, kindness and allyship.”

In Lebanon, AVA Gallery and Art Center will also be hosting a Juneteenth celebration from noon to 2 p.m., both in-person in its building at 11 Bank St. and via Zoom. Among those participating are spoken word poet Zachary Price; storyteller, educator and poet William Forchion; Griot storyteller, educator and poet Gale Jackson; and The Original DJ Skar, who will provide musical entertainment. There will also be several visual artists featured.

“Hartford again and other regions of the Upper Valley are trying to bring people together to face truth, to celebrate culture and to help different identities be seen. To celebrate and acknowledge Juneteenth is a way to say we are acknowledging history, we are learning history and we are standing by and for the continued emancipation of the Pan-African community,” Draper said. “We’ve got a number of Black leaders in the Upper Valley able to say, ‘hey, this is one of the ways we acknowledge our history and we’d love for you to join us.’ ”

With vaccination rates increasing and COVID-19 rates decreasing in Vermont, Major, who credited then-Selectboard member Alicia Barrow for organizing Hartford’s recognition of Juneteenth last year, said the committee and town began planning an in-person celebration.

“Right now is a very turbulent time and I think that if we can, everybody wants to throw around the word unity, but if we can really do it and express that, I think it’s always a good thing,” Major said. “And so if we can have events like this that everybody is welcome, you don’t have to be Black or white or gay or straight. You don’t have to be Christian or Muslim or Jewish.”

“Everyone is welcome. It is truly an event that we want to say ‘that’s what Hartford is about.’ It’s a place that is inviting to everyone and I’m excited about that.”

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For more information, contact Major at jmajor@hartford-vt.org or by phone at 802-295-9353, ext. 217.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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