By Jennifer L. Warren
BEACON – Once Lastar Gorton heard the idea from her Uncle, she wanted to put things in motion; it was far too important of a long overdue celebration to delay.
Uncle “Bosco,” as Michael Faison, is referred to by most, was eager to throw an inaugural Juneteenth in the City of Beacon. His niece, Gorton, helped bring that vision to fruition in just six weeks. Reaching out to “Justice” from Beacon’s Black Lives Matter, she got further assistance with permits and licenses at the selected location, Pete and Toshi Seeger Riverfront Park. A flier was soon created, attracting performers and vendors, and the rest fell into place. The results were on full display, Monday, June 19, as the First Annual Beacon Juneteenth Riverfront Festival took place, thriving with live entertainment, dancing, community bonding, and sheer joy, celebrating freedom.
“We are really hoping this is the first of many more of this event, and we want to eventually have a parade before that goes down to the Park for the Festival,” said Gorton as she happily looked out at the impressive crowd. “Juneteenth recently became a federal holiday, and it’s so important to know that although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863, all the slaves south of the Mason-Dixon Line still were not freed until June 18, 1865, when all slaves were freed; this is our freedom day.”
That day at Beacon’s Riverfront Park was filled with live music, poetry, singing, artists, dancing, food trucks and just plain, simple unity and fun. Additionally a wide spectrum of vendors contributed to the day’s brimming success.
“We are here today to fulfill our Arms of Community Service and celebrate our freedoms through this overdue holiday, recognizing the contributions of the African-American community,” said Brother Shawn Cheatham of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Mid-Hudson Chapter whose organization was providing free books to guests.
Nearby to their booth were Amber and Hampton Fluker, representatives from Common Ground Farm, selling fresh vegetables as well as providing information about their local business.
“My wife and I feel grateful to be volunteering here, seeing our community dancing and feeling joy; it’s very inspiring,” said Hampton, looking out at the beautiful Hudson River backdrop enveloping their booth. “It’s really nice to see the support; it makes us feel affirmed.”
Everywhere you looked that affirmation was present. Whether it was in the upbeat music streaming from a range of musical venues, vendors and guests sharing ideas while positively interacting, youth actively engaging in a Community Art Project dubbed, “What Does Juneteenth look like to you,” or guests indulging in the eclectic food offerings, relaxation, big smiles and loud laughter abounded.
Anrika Martin, owner of the Sweet Spot business who recently appeared on The Food Network, was selling; cookies, brownies, cake jars, gluten-free and vegan options and other yummy treats over at her booth.
“This is a great opportunity for community to come together,” said Martin about the day. “It’s a day to experience what we offer, while celebrating how far we have come.”