Jamestown Juneteenth Planning Committee with the 2022 Juneteenth Freedom Scholarship Recipients.

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.

Contributing Writer
Paul Leone

Time for celebration!

The Jamestown Juneteenth Festival 2023 will provide a full weekend of events June 16-June 19 in honor of the anniversary of the end of slavery in America. The Juneteenth Planning Committee, chaired by the indefatigable city councilwoman Regina Brackman, has scheduled activities beginning Friday June 16 in downtown Jamestown and continuing both downtown and at Jackson-Taylor (formerly Chadakoin) Park through Sunday June 18. Complementing the weekend activities, the following evening, June 19, the National Comedy Center will present free to the public the film The Nutty Professor starring Eddie Murphy..

Juneteenth has been celebrated in America for more than a hundred and fifty years. The word is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth”, the day in 1865 when General Gordon Granger posted a proclamation in Galveston, Texas pursuant to an Executive Order that all slaves in Texas were free. The Civil War had ended two months prior with Lee’s surrender at Appomatix, but slaves were still held in bondage in certain areas of Texas and Kentucky. American slavery formally ended with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in December, 1865. What must have been the confusion and jubilation when the slaves in Texas understood that they were no longer

Early Juneteenth celebrations were often used as political rallies designed to give voting instructions to newly freed African Americans. The celebration evolved over time among African Americans and increasingly within the wider mainstream. Sometimes referred to as “Jubilee Day”, the celebration was an opportunity for joy and fellowship in remembrance always accompanied with food and music, fun and games. Jamestown has celebrated Juneteenth for two decades. Two years ago President Biden signed into law a bill passed by Congress making Juneteenth the eleventh federal holiday.

Cornhole, Anyone?

The Juneteenth Planning Committee is committed to offering to the citizens of Jamestown a variety of activities suitable to all ages. Childrens’ activities Saturday and Sunday afternoons include a bounce house, face painting and a bag race. Frisbees, whiffle balls and other toys will be available for random play. Space is yet available for food and craft vendors. For information contact Christina Cardinale at 716 720-1442.

Among the events newly scheduled this year will be a cornhole competition Saturday afternoon. Contestants may register on the premises beginning at 12:00 noon. Each two person team will be charged a five dollar registration fee, the sum to be awarded to the winners of the competition. The competition is limited to twenty teams. Similarly, for card players, a Spades competition is offered with a winner-take-all prize for the champions.

From noon to twelve on Saturday the Jamestown Jackals, Jamestown’s professional basketball team, will host a clinic at the park courts. A three on three tournament will follow. Registration forms for the tournament have been provided to the Boys and Girls Club and to the three middle schools. Teams should assemble at the park by one o’clock with their completed registration forms and a ten dollar per team registration fee. Players may participate in both the tournament and the clinic.

The festival kicks off Friday evening at 7:00 pm with live music featuring Erie’s Breeze Band. The Breeze Band plays everything from classic R and B to Motown to the Blues and classic rock. All suitable to dancing. Music will continue until 9:00 PM and, more likely, beyond. Concessions available.

In the past the festival was held almost exclusively at Jackson-Taylor Park. Introducing programming to downtown will, the Planning Committee believes, increase exposure and participation. In addition to Friday night’s Breeze Band appearance, recording artist Marcia McWilson will perform at 7:00 PM at the Spire Theater 317 East Third Street. Ms. McWilson, the “Blues Queen of Niagara Falls,” was the first black woman to be inducted into the Niagara Falls Music hall of Fame. Actress and motivational speaker, she has performed with Tyler Perry.

Downtown programming was made possible by a grant from the Jamestown Local Development Corporation (JLDC). The committee wishes to express a sincere Thanks to JLDC and to the many businesses and individuals who have supported and continue to support Jamestown Juneteenth. Subsidized tickets to the McWilson presentation, available at the door or presale from any committee member, are five dollars.

Jamestown Juneteenth 2023 formally opens Saturday morning, July 17, at 11:00 AM in Jackson-Taylor Park. Two years ago, following the Covid pandemic, the Parks Department prepared a sort of mini amphitheater at the foot of Tenth Street dedicated specifically to the festival. Festival goers are invited to gather here for the mayor’s proclamation and brief remarks on the history of Juneteenth. Preach Freedom from Erie, an African drum and dance ensemble will participate in the opening ceremonies and conduct a drum workshop presentation beginning at 1:00 PM on the premises.

Sunday morning begins with a continental breakfast at 8:30 AM, followed by a nondenominational worship service. Music and games to follow until 3:00 PM when the traditional Gospel Fest begins. Deliverance from Buffalo is featured this year.

Jamestown Juneteenth 2023 closes this year with the presentation of scholarships out of the proceeds generated from the festival. Says Regina Brackman: “Scholarships—that’s what we’re all about.”