Juneteenth In New Jersey: What Is It And What's Happening

Russ Crespolini

NEW JERSEY - Several events are planned throughout the Garden State Friday for Juneteenth, the anniversary of the emancipation of African Americans from slavery in the United States, and Patch is keeping track of what New Jerseyans are doing to mark the occasion (see below).

Ceremonies were underway, and in Bridgewater, police were shutting down portions of Route 22 in the township since Juneteenth protesters will be kneeling on the highway. Read more: Rt. 22 To Close As Protesters Kneel For Juneteenth In Bridgewater

What Is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, which is short for June 19th, is a 155-year-old holiday that celebrates the emancipation of African Americans from slavery in the United States.

"Juneteenth today celebrates African-American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures," according to Juneteenth.com in an explanation of the holiday.

On June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans that the Civil War was over and slavery had been abolished.

Is Juneteenth A National Holiday?

Juneteenth is not a national holiday, but most states have officially recognized the day as such. In 1980, Texas became the first state to designate Juneteenth as a holiday. In the time since, 45 other states have decided to officially recognize the day, according to The New York Times.

How Is Juneteenth Celebrated?

In the late 19th century, the day was celebrated by praying and spending time with family. Additionally, men and women who had been enslaved, and younger generations, would make an annual pilgrimage to Galveston, according to The New York Times.

As the celebrations developed over the years, time with family and prayer remained a fundamental aspect of the holiday: "Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self-improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations," according to Juneteenth.com.

The website also adds that food, games and fashion grew to become a more prominent aspect of the celebrations.

How is it being celebrated in New Jersey?

While not a national holiday, New Jersey could join other states around the country in marking the end of slavery with a state holiday under legislation set to be introduced by state Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Sandra Cunningham.

Gov. Phil Murphy also addressed Juneteenth at start of his Friday COVID-19 briefing.

"This Juneteenth, I have to say, is a little different. Today it is black voices telling the rest of us in no uncertain terms of the sustained system of systemic racism," he said. "This is a day for many of celebration and liberation. A day to celebrate the strong culture and connections of our black community, it is something for all of us to celebrate. "

Murphy noted that he would visit Friendship Baptist Church later Friday to speak at length on the meaning of Juneteenth and efforts to make New Jersey a leader in breaking down systemic racism.

Throughout the Garden State there are a variety events planned to commemorate the occasion, and they run the gamut in tone and style:

  • In Newark, a Juneteenth "Drive To Justice" rally was set. As part of a nationwide day of action being dubbed #DrivingToJustice, motorcades and marches were to take place in dozens of cities, including Newark. In Newark, a motorcade will start at noon at 206 Springfield Avenue, then proceed to the Peter Rodino Federal Building, City Hall, Newark Penn Station, Market Street and Military Park.
  • Also in Newark, after an executive order from Mayor Ras Baraka, Juneteenth will become an annual opportunity for city workers to reflect on racism and the fight for social justice.
  • Calls for solidarity and hope resonated across Essex County on Friday, the holiday known as "Juneteenth." And there's a lot more to be done, both nationally and in New Jersey, when it comes to racial justice, advocates say.
  • A Juneteeth protest/march was planned for Somerville on Friday in front of the Somerset County Courthouse, beginning at 3 p.m. Demonstrators were to meet at the Somerset County Courthouse and walk down Bridge Street toward Routes 22 and 206 and kneel for eight minutes, 46 seconds before walking back to the courthouse.
  • In Princeton, they celebrated Juneteenth with a block party on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Princeton Family YMCA. The holiday is normally celebrated on Friday but it was moved due to weather issues.
  • Jersey City was set to celebrate Juneteenth starting on Friday with several events. Among the local celebrations, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has declared the day a holiday and will close municipal offices for the first time.
  • In Cherry Hill, Cherry Hill Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Meloche were set to join the Cherry Hill High School East African American Culture Club for a demonstration on Friday, the school district announced. Meloche was expected to march and speak during the demonstration beginning at 3 p.m. "Learning Begins Now; Stop the Ignorance" is being held in recognition of Juneteenth, an unofficial holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in America.
  • In Boonton, there was a planned celebration of black excellence while "fighting for our rights on our Independence Day." There will be a march and a rally beginning at 5 p.m. at Gracelord Park.
  • A Juneteenth rally against police brutality was planned for Montclair on Friday. NJ Student Blackout, a group of student leaders from Essex County, are organizing the event. It begins at 1 p.m. at Montclair Kimberly Academy at 6 Lloyd Road and will head to Rand Park where a Liberation Celebration will take place from 4 p.m.
  • Juneteenth may be on Friday, but Paterson will make it a weekend affair as a peace march against racial injustice is scheduled for Saturday. The march against racial injustice is slated to begin at 9 a.m. A flier, tweeted out by Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, shows that the march will begin at the Integrity Masonic Temple at 224 Broadway in Paterson.
  • Smoke N' Ashes and Verifried Foods Food Truck will host a Juneteenth Tailgate Party on Friday in Teaneck. At Smoke N' Ashes, located at 200 Walraven Dr. in Teaneck, party-goers were asked to bring their own chairs since, according to an Instagram post of the business, there was a limited number of seating per town rules. The party was scheduled for 3 to 8 p.m.
  • The town of Maplewood is planning a forum on Friday (Juneteenth) at 7 p.m called "From Awareness to Action: A Forum on Law Enforcement Accountability, Mass Incarceration in America and The Treatment of Black People in our community."
  • A Juneteenth Celebration Walk was set to begin place at 2 p.m. Friday in Jerry Morgan Park in Long Branch.
  • Bloomfield is closing its township offices on Friday in honor of Juneteenth. Mayor Michael Venezia said his administration and the Township Council are "constantly looking for ways to make our community a more inclusive environment."
  • A Juneteenth rally scheduled for Friday evening will cause road closures, according to Englishtown police. The rally will consist of a peaceful protest to commemorate Juneteenth, a holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. Marching will begin at 6 p.m. at Manalapan Rec Park, according to a Facebook page for the event. The route will begin at the park's new football field and continue to Harrison Street in Englishtown.

Those are a few of the events we've heard about. What did we miss? Drop a note in the comments.

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This article originally appeared on the Mendham-Chester Patch