By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
REGION – Organizers and community members convened at various events across the region June 19 to celebrate Juneteenth.
In Marlborough, dozens gathered at the city’s Union Common. A few miles away, in downtown Hudson, musicians playing traditional African genres performed at a separate event that also featured appearances from local politicians Jamie Eldridge and Kate Hogan.
“Local actions and local celebrations like this here today that draw us together center our will and inspire us to go forward in building a more just society for all,” Representative Hogan told the Hudson crowd. “…There is still so much work to do.”
Organized in the days preceding June 19, that Hudson event highlighted a local black owned business while providing materials to educate community members about Juneteenth.
The Hudson Public Library hosted a reading circle on the grounds of Town Hall after a performance by the group Crocodile River Music.
With some booths set up at Town Hall, the Crocodile River Music performance took place on the grounds of Hudson’s Unitarian Universalist Church.
Back in the mid-1800s, that very congregation focused heavily on abolitionist causes, participating in the Underground Railroad and hosting prominent speakers like Fredrick Douglas according to Reverend Alice Anacheka-Nasemann. The church that stands today opened in 1861, the same year that the Civil War began.
“It definitely adds a dimension and feel and honor to know that this church is continuing to support our community, our diverse community and our Black Americans,” event organizer Mercedes Murphy said. “It’s very important.”
Juneteenth itself has been observed in some capacity since 1866. It marks the anniversary of the date in the Civil War when Union soldiers began enforcing Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in Texas, the final Confederate state practicing institutionalized slavery.
A historic tradition, Juneteenth has gained more widespread prominence over the past two years following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Massachusetts formally recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday on June 29 of last year. On June 17 of this year, President Joe Biden signed legislation recognizing the holiday at the federal level.
Marking a milestone celebration this month, locals are looking to the future.
“I’m happy that it has been recognized as a holiday,” said Mike David Joseph, who organized the celebration in Marlborough. “It’s a good start. But, obviously, there’s a long list of things that need to be done.”