WEST CHESTER, PA — On June 19th, 1865, the last group of enslaved Black Americans was freed by the Union in Galveston, Texas. That event became the oldest holiday in the US known today as Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the US. The enslaved people of Galveston did not find out about their freedom two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and two months after the end of the Civil War.
Citizens of West Chester wanted a space to come together and commemorate this holiday that is too often misunderstood and overlooked. The West Chester Juneteenth Planning Council was established to give West Chester a space to celebrate and to educate others about Juneteenth and how Black History is intertwined within the history of West Chester Borough and greater Chester County.
The West Chester Juneteenth Planning Partners have worked diligently, creating an exciting and robust line-up of events including family activities, history tours, art and culture events, and a Juneteenth Freedom Festival! All activities will be focused on the central theme of journeying toward freedom. The events are scheduled to take place from June 14th – June 19th, 2023.
This week-long celebration kicks off at the Chester County Art Association featuring an African American Quilt display, reception, and discussion. These quilts will be on display at the Chester County Art Association from June 15th – 19th. Carol Weaver, a West Chester Juneteenth Planning Council Partner, and co-founder of Seba Enrichment Academy, said that “quilts played a strategic role during the “Underground Railroad” and the enslaved community during journey towards freedom”.
June 15th to June 18th, will feature African American Walking Tours. These guided walks will give insight to West Chester’s ties to the Underground Railroad and the Black community’s history in the East End, Uptown, and West Chester Education.
Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste, a member of the Juneteenth Planning Council Partners, touched on the importance of these walking tours. “West Chester is replete with people and places involved in the foundation building of our country. Our early settlers included many who were involved with the Underground Railroad and providing opportunities for former slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation. The Juneteenth celebration invites us all to celebrate this pivotal period in our country’s history”.
Family-friendly events will take place throughout the week and will close on June 19th with the West Chester NAACP Flag recognition ceremony featuring a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, a poetry and art contest, and the Juneteenth Freedom Festival at the Charles A. Melton Arts & Education Center.
For a full list of Juneteenth events, please visit the Cultural Alliance of Chester County website. https://www.culturechesco.org/services-7
The Chester County Community Foundation wants to thank all our Juneteenth Planning Council Partners for their hard work and dedication to commemorating such an important holiday. They are listed below:
- Honorable Lillian L. DeBaptiste – West Chester Borough Mayor
- Mary Gazdik – Chester County Library & District Center
- Alice Hammond – West Chester NAACP
- Conor Hepp – Chester County History Center
- Pachy Banks-Cabral – Chester County History Center
- Fredda Maddox, Esq. – Chester County Sherriff
- Timmy Nelson – Community Volunteer
- Denice Velez – West Chester University Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
- Renee Washington – Charles A. Melton Center
- Carol Weaver – Seba Enrichment Academy
- Reginald Weaver – MRW Business Solutions
- Karen Simmons – Chester County Community Foundation
- Lilly Mercado – Chester County Community Foundation
All are invited to attend. For more details about West Chester Juneteenth or the Chester County Community Foundation’s philanthropic programs, call (610) 696-8211 or visit www.chescocf.org.
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