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By Journalist Ms. Jones
MIDDLETOWN – On Sunday, June 19th Because It Matters 24/7 held their Second Annual Juneteenth Celebration. The event included a Community Screening of “I Am Not Your Negro” at the Paramount Theater and a Community Festival at the Pavilion at Erie Way Park. Black-owned businesses that displayed their products and services were Peche by Jessica, MidHudson Chocolate Milk, Flawless by I’Jala, Glitz & Glam Jewelry, Sadie’s Books & Beverages, and Fatherless Yet Fabulous. The emcee and President of Because It Matters, Yaa Yaa Whaley-Williams, hosted the event.
“I did not grow up formally hearing about Juneteenth until I was in my late teens… The name of this day Juneteenth is formed from the words June nineteenth… Those two words were put together and it literally is the African American Freedom Day… or Emancipation Day… [It is] the true date that enslaved Africans were freed in this country… We learn about July 4th,1776, and that certainly is worthy history to know when we as a country, [the] United States, the colonies were freed from British rule. But, if we’re going to tell the whole story, that only was an opportunity afforded to a select few… Those select few were Caucasian… or immigrants from countries with lack of melanin… If you were an African in this country, July 4th was not a celebratory day for you. That was actually June 19th, which is the day that marks when the words in the deepest parts of the… country where everyone that was of melanin persuasion, was made aware of their freedom,” said Whaley-Williams who co-founded Because It Matters with her husband Anthony Williams and will be opening a bookstore, Sadie’s Books & Beverages in a few days.
The celebration was done in collaboration with the City of Middletown and Mayor Joseph M. DeStefano attended.
“I think it’s important [to celebrate Juneteenth] for the very fact that not many of us knew what Juneteenth was until the last couple of years… There are attempts now with the schools… to tell people what happened in the past so that we can avoid repeating it… It’s a time to remember what people went through and what the struggle is and also a time to remember that we can’t let these things happen again… It’s also a matter of bringing community together… This is the second year and this will only grow and we hope that community will get more involved with events like this,” said Mayor DeStefano. “We’re all equal. We all have the same opportunities and we have to protect those rights by voting.”
Participants were able to register to vote at the Juneteenth Celebration. There was also a Community Raffle, Children’s Juneteenth Book Read Aloud Station, and a Gallery Walk with Juneteenth inspired artwork, book recommendations, and information on the Juneteenth commemorative coin. Community members were also able to get an Adinkra symbol painted on their body; these symbols were created by the Akan people from Ghana and Coted’Ivoire to express proverbs related to wisdom, life, death, and human behavior. The winners of the Because it Matters24/7 Share Your Story Second Annual Scholarship were announced. The winners were Kayla Hunter, Meera Naraindutt, and Yasmine Rahman.
Amateur Night at the Apollo Winner Jasmin Bell aka Jazi B. performed an original song titled “Black Chronicles” which has a gospel and R&B feel and can be purchased on all music platforms.
“It was very important [for me to sing here today] because not only does it inspire people, but especially the kids, because a lot of kids don’t know about their Black history. If I can just spread some type of information and education… then it’s gonna touch other people. So, that’s really what I’m here to do… just inspire,” said16-year-old Jazi B. who has been singing since she was two years old. She also has another song called “A Better You” out now on Spotify and plans to audition for American Idol now that she’s old enough. In addition, she plans to be an In-Class Music Therapist when she grows up.