Cadman Park Conservancy celebrates Juneteenth
Black excellence and Black joy recognized
The sun shined brightly as Cadman Park Conservancy hosted its Juneteenth celebration on Sunday.
The event featured poetry readings by Jacqueline Johnson, Deirdre Van Walters and Cassandra Cato-Louis. Johnson and Van Walters recited original poetry. Cato-Louis recited a portion of Frederick Douglass’ riveting 1852 speech, “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?”
Afterward, she remarked, “We must be transformed internally so we can be empowered to build a better world externally. [Juneteenth is]…is a call to enter into conversation with each other, creating a time and space where we can nourish a fragile community that is living by grace. May we be empowered to answer the call to racial justice in our hearts.”
Brooklyn-based Johnson recited five original poems that spoke on themes of ancestry, struggle, memory and African American identity. Van Walters’ original piece, delivered slam-style, besieged listeners to “take a deep look in the mirror” and to “wake up” to the reality of racism ingrained in society and within ourselves.
The Gowanus Wildcats Drill Squad and the Runway Tales Models offered additional entertainment. In between performances, DJ Smooth spun dance tunes and got the crowd doing the Wobble. Black-owned businesses offered hand-crafted wares, everything from coffee to teen fashion, books, small gifts, inspirational items, and jewelry. District Leader candidate Sabrina Gates was on hand to take voter registration on behalf of the local political club, RBG Democrats. Representatives of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’ office were also in attendance.
Legendary graffiti artist MeresOne invited artists Ponzi and Albertus Joseph to create live art throughout the event. MeresOne is the founder of 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Inc., aka 5Pointz, a now-defunct graffiti and artist loft space that resided in a Long Island City warehouse complex. Of Juneteenth he said, “[we are] using art to showcase and honor the day.” Other vendors offered free yoga, kids’ dance activities, face painting and piraguas, the cool treat of hand-shaved ice and flavored syrup.
Yesenia Gonzalez is chair of the Cadman Park Conservancy Juneteenth Committee. “After the murder of George Floyd, Cadman Park became a sanctuary for protesting and healing so I was overjoyed when the city named the south end Juneteenth Grove. Having grown up across from Cadman Park and raising my daughter here as a BIPOC family, I was honored to have chaired this year’s event. This day was about elevating the Black community and celebrating joy and justice.”
Cadman Park Conservancy President Doreen Gallo felt the same. “The Cadman Park Conservancy [was] honored to host our second annual Juneteenth Celebration…on Father’s Day. The NYC Parks Department created Juneteenth Grove in solidarity with the Black community in the fight to end systemic racism. On behalf of the Conservancy, I want to thank everyone who participated in celebrating this special day in the park.”
Though recognized by communities of color for generations, Juneteenth was finally mandated as a federal holiday on June 19, 2021, under President Biden. It was the first approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983. Per the National Archives, The Emancipation Proclamation was decreed by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. But, it could not be enforced in states under Confederate control and its execution depended on the Union’s victory in the Civil War.
It wasn’t until two and half years later, on June 19, 1865, that the enslaved peoples of Texas were finally liberated. On that day, Union Army Maj. General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and issued General Order No. 3, effectively ending the Civil War. Yet, the Black community has endured lasting racism and discrimination through Jim Crow laws, segregation and the resurgence of white supremacy. Nationally recognizing Juneteenth is a long-overdue step toward healing for African Americans and our entire nation.
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