By Miranda Reale
KINGSTON – For the second year in a row, Harambee, a mid-Hudson valley coalition that supports and promotes the strength of the community through cultural and educational events, hosted a Juneteenth celebration last Saturday. The celebration included a line-up of music performances that included the Good Gourd singers. The group sang a gospel ritual at the Pine Street African Burial Grounds. “For those who were forced to sing their song in this strange land, we say ashay,” said Evelyn Clark before the performance. She led a “libations to the ancestor’s ceremony” to honor those who have suffered slavery and remember those who are buried at the Pine Street African Burial Grounds. While leading libations, Clark chanted out “Ashay” and many responded by repeating the African word that means to come together.
Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned about the Emancipation Proclamation – more than two years after it became law. Last year President Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth, typically celebrated on June 19, a federal holiday. Since June 19 falls on a Sunday this year, the federal holiday was observed on Monday, June 20.
In addition to the performances, a very special guest was in attendance. Barbara Allen, author and speaker and sixth generation granddaughter of abolitionist Sojourner Truth. She was unable to make it to the Ulster County Courthouse last Wednesday for the display of new documents that details the court ruling of Truth’s historic win against a white man, which ultimately led to the freedom of her son from slavery and set the foundation to her legacy. Luckily, she made it on time to celebrate Juneteenth in Kingston. This year the event also featured a traveling exhibit of ten quilts memorializing the final words of George Floyd.