Juneteenth Celebration in Rutherford
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Sami Abuauad
Juneteenth is recognized on June 19th to honor the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger led thousands of federal troops to Galveston, TX to announce that the Civil War had ended and the slaves had been freed. Most states recognize this important day in United States History. The Rutherford Civil Rights Commission decided to hold it’s first annual Juneteenth celebration this year at Mount Ararat Baptist Church. This is Rutherford spoke with Rutherford Civil Rights Commission members, Steve Way, Beverly Khan, and Councilwoman Maria Begg-Roberson about this celebration.
TIR: Why is it important for everyone to recognize Juneteenth?
Steve Way and Beverly Khan: Juneteenth has not been widely celebrated, yet it is probably one of the most significant days in World History. We felt it was important to start with our small town.
Maria Begg-Roberson: June 19, 1865, was when the last slaves in the United States learned they were free. It’s based on the idea that real freedom is achieved when everyone is free.
TIR: How did the Civil Rights Commission commemorate Juneteenth?
SW and BK: The Rutherford Civil Rights Commission held its first annual Juneteenth celebration featuring 17 kids from Rutherford and their families at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church. Pastor Shawn Pate welcomed our guests with a prayer. Each child read a poem, song, or piece of their choice. The event was broadcast live via ZOOM for the entire community to tune in!
MBR: Beverly Khan invited children to recite poems, sing songs, and more based on the importance of civil rights.
The following students presented at the celebration: Haley and Owen Ledwith, Miya Roberson, Noah Anderson, Leah and Tyler Griffin, Ava and Ben Evans, Chloe, Dylan, and Olivia Rogers, Vlad Maier, Lina Pal, Noah Anderson, Desmond Frazier, Sydney, Gavin, and Jackson Harris, and Julia Narucki. Beverly Khan, Steve Way, and Rob Lyons also participated in the celebration.
TIR: Why is Juneteenth such an important day to remember?
SW and BK: Juneteenth is an important day to remember because it is a major achievement for Black Civil Rights. The United States was one of the last developed countries to abolish the practice of slavery. It is widely known that the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in January 1863, but lesser-known that Texas did not deliver that news until June 1865 after the Civil War ended and the crops harvested. In some places, it is known as Black Independence Day.
MBR: The day when all slaves in this country found out that slavery was abolished is deeply important. Slavery is America’s shameful past. Children were born into slavery, they could be sold away from their mothers, and they lived their entire existence in chattel enslavement.
TIR: Juneteenth is not as widely recognized as many other historical dates in the US. How do you wish to see that change?
SW and BK: The Rutherford Civil Rights Commission hopes to see Juneteenth recognized in our schools, places of worship, workplaces, homes, and communities. We hope Juneteenth will be a day of celebration and remembrance where families get together to share stories and reflect on our nations' history.
MBR: I would like to see it as a public holiday that brings people together in a joyful appreciation of Black culture and history.
TIR: How can groups like the Rutherford Civil Rights Commission help educate others on Juneteenth and other important dates in civil rights history?
SW and BK: The Rutherford Civil Rights Commission will continue to host local events in our town, library, parks, houses of worship, and social media. We are in the process of redesigning our website to provide great informational resources. We know it goes further than just educating yourself. We remain committed to putting the lessons we learn into practice.
MBR: It is important that they involve residents in appreciating the diverse cultures in our town. Rutherford has become deeply diverse with residents of ethnically cultural backgrounds. I would like to see holidays like Diwali, Chinese New Year, Jewish holidays, Juneteenth, and more honored.