Historic Newton co-organized the event, which featured speakers, musical performers, and others who reflected on the importance of the holiday while also saying more work needs to be done in Newton and beyond.
In addition to the event June 19, organizers presented more speakers and musical performances, as well as dancing and food, in an event for teens June 20.
Armando Machado, Jr., one of the organizers, opened the ceremony by sharing his personal connection with the event — he was training for a marathon in May 2020 when it became national news that Ahmaud Arbery had been chased, shot, and killed in February on his run in Georgia.
“I never even thought of someone being killed, just out on a run,” he said in an interview. “That’s what made me want to be a part of communitywide events.”
During her speech, Johnson reminded the community how the news of emancipation took more than 900 days after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed to be delivered to all enslaved people. She said the fight for equality continues.
“We gather to remember the sound of freedom — to be put together again by the sound of freedom,” she said.
In his speech during the celebration, the Rev. Devlin Scott of the NewCity Church in Newton Highlands said Black Americans’ fight for justice is a race they must keep running.
“Justice is more than a fad and Juneteenth is more than a holiday,” Scott said.
Jesse Tauriac, a professor at Lasell University and director of the Donahue Institute for Ethics, Diversity, and Inclusion, said he thinks people need to do more than recognize Juneteenth.
“It’s about doing everything we can to mobilize,” Tauriac said. “Do not embrace simple symbolic gestures or performative acts.”
Tony Clark, president and founder of My Brother’s Keeper — an organization in Cambridge that focuses on “disrupting and eradicating the chronic social, mental, economical, and educational barriers for young people,” according to its website — said “being a good ally must move beyond book clubs and hashtags.”
He said the country needs to work on voting disenfranchisement, which he said disproportionately affects Black people in this country.
“Liberty and justice for all, yes, we want that,” Clark said. “But we also want our votes to count fairly.”
At the end of the event, Clara Silverstein of Historic Newton introduced current and recently graduated students of Newton’s High Schools — Edie Pike, Cristian Gaines, Olivia Helfrich-Tapia, and Miles Levin — who recited the Emancipation Proclamation in its entirety. Each student read a section of Abraham Lincoln’s speech, after which Levin shared his personal response with the crowd.
“One thing that I think should be noted is that Abraham Lincoln was a white man,” Levin said. “So the Emancipation Proclamation is used as this great moment in Black history, when really we’re celebrating a white man when we celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation.
“I think that’s an interesting thing to think about on a day like today.”
Andi Purcell and Gladys Vargas can be reached at email@example.com.
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