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First Juneteenth fills Carousel Museum to capacity

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By DAVID FORTIER JUNE 23, 2023

The first celebration of Juneteenth drew over 200 people to the Carousel Museum and included a dramatic reading of General Orders., No. 3, bringing news of the Proclamation of Emancipation to the last American slaves to be freed, along with song and dance from several arts groups.

“Let us move toward justice for all, and, once again, Juneteenth exists for rejoicing, reflecting and reaffirming our commitment because the blessings of freedom aren’t for all,” said master of ceremonies Courtney Watson at the conclusion of the formal program.

Watson then proceeded to invite people, young and old, onto the dance floor to continue the celebration. Children were invited to participate in arts and crafts activities.

Aside from the reading and singing by members of the Queen Ann Nzinga Center, the program included performances by the rapper Bulldog, the Woto African Dancers, Queen Ann Nzinga Center’s Ninga’s Daughters and Nala & Andrea.

Juneteenth is celebrated to commemorate the date two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that the news reached Galveston Bay, Texas, in the form of 2,000 Union Army soldiers and Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger who read and enforced General Orders, No. 3, freeing the last enslaved Black Americans on June 19, 1865.

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a Federal holiday after Congress passed the National Juneteenth Independence Day Act earlier the same month.

“Freedom is not free,” said Tim Camerl, president of the local NAACP chapter. “You just have to stand for freedom in America.

“We fight for it all over world, so we have to fight for it in this country, too.”

Prior to the end of the program, Rosado was called to the microphone for concluding thoughts. He read Langston Hughes’s poem, “Merry-Go-Round.” The poem is fitting for both its setting, in involves a carousel, and all for its message, a hopeful one. Click here for a link to the poem.

In a side conversation, Rosado said he couldn’t remember a time when he had read a poem aloud in public.

“That is unless you count fourth grade,” he added.

Sponsors included the Bristol Park Recreation Youth and Community Services Dept., the City Arts and Culture Commission, Primo Press, Cafe Real, The Carousel Museum and the local chapter of the NAACP.

Many community organizations and several businesses had tables with information products, including the Bristol Boys and Girls Club, HRA, Bristol Health, Gordan Law, DK Movement, Afrika, Rx Crystals, Bristol’s BEST, the Bristol Diversity Council, African Heritage, Cafe Real and the Greater Bristol Chapter of the NAACP.

The official program began with greetings from Mayor Jeffrey Caggiano and Rosado, who will face off in November’s municipal election for the mayor’s seat.

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