West Hartford’s Town Hall hosted this year’s Juneteenth celebration for a day filled with events, food and fun.
By Lily Guberman. Photos by Lily Guberman and Ronni Newton
West Hartford’s second annual Juneteenth celebration was a full day of activities – a joyful celebration of the country’s “second Independence Day” that also included reminders of the need for progress to continue even as Juneteenth has just been named the country’s newest federal holiday.
Following the placement of Witness Stones at the Old Center Cemetery, a procession led by Alvin Carter and members of Friends of the World Music Performance led attendees to the parking lot of the West Hartford Town Hall. Several hours of festivities followed, including performances from students, speeches, a bazaar, and much more.
The celebration at Town Hall began with a performance from the Friends of the World Music, followed by a speech from Mayor Shari Cantor, who expressed her profound thanks to Adrienne Billings-Smith, who was the “spark” that pulled together the town’s first-ever Juneteenth celebration in 2020, and was a key organizer of Saturday’s event.
June 19, 2021 marked 156 years since the enslaved people of Galveston, TX, received word that they had been freed – 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation.,
Cantor reflected on the impact that one person can make, connecting it to the progress the nation has made so far, but also everything that still needs to be done.
“We have a long way to go for racial equality, but every one of us must try,” Cantor said.
Next, student performers sang the Black National Anthem, and keynote speakers Dr. Lorna Thomas-Farquharson and her daughter, Juliana Farquharson delivered their remarks.
Thomas-Farquharson started her portion by addressing that African American history did not begin with slavery, and continued by explaining that “race is a social construct – a classification system developed by humans.”
Thomas-Farquharson and her daughter punctuated their speech by reciting lyrics from the Black National anthem.
“We do not need pity, we do not need sympathy, we need collective action,” Thomas-Farquharson said.
Juliana compared the experience of Black Americans to the process of the creation of diamonds. Under pressure, both of them turn out for the better, she said.
Attendees enjoyed a bazaar featuring a variety of goods for purchase, frozen custard from Shake Shack, boxed lunches from DORO Restaurant Group, a hula hoop contest, and performance from Hartford’s Proud Drill Team.
The Juneteenth celebration concluded with the unveiling of the MLK39 Racial Equity Mural in Blue Back Square.
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