Maplewood Marks Juneteenth—’Our 2nd Independence Day’

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At a solemn yet joy-filled event, Maplewood marked Juneteenth with poetry, song, a proclamation, recitations and a flag raising at town hall on Valley Street on June 19.

Led by Mayor Nancy Adams, Deputy Mayor Jamaine Cripe and Cultural Affairs Director Zakiyyah Williams, the ceremony highlighted the work of veterans of the armed forces.

Cripe noted that it was soldiers of the Union Army who notified the residents of Galveston, TX of their freedom on June 19, 1865 — almost two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Freedom had been won, said Cripe, after Black soldiers “joined the ranks of the Union Army and turned the tide of the war” following that self-same proclamation which allowed African Americans to enlist.

Cripe asked for Black veterans who were present to rise and be honored, including many members of LZ Hope Charlie Company which provides support to veterans and meets weekly at the Maplewood Senior Center on Burnett Avenue.

Following the singing of Lift Every Voice and Sing and a recitation of Paul Laurence Dunbar poems by Barbara Velasquez, Dr. Khadijah Costley White of SOMA Justice read some of Frederick Douglass‘s writings and spoke of his arguments with Abraham Lincoln: “Douglass kept telling him that if you want to win, you have to free us.”

Citing Douglass, White added, “There is no freedom without struggle. … Right now we are in a backlash moment. .. They are trying to tell us that we have to go back, but we won’t. We’re never going back.”

Quoting Douglass again, White said that when a young Black activist asked Douglass what he should do with his life, Douglass replied, “Agitate, agitate, agitate.”

Audrey Rowe of the South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race also sounded a note of vigilance along with celebration. She thanked attendees for “pausing and acknowledging and embracing the truth of the history of African American people at a time when there is so much misinformation, disinformation and fight to suppress the true history.”

For more 2024 Juneteenth events, visit

Maplewood Cultural Affairs Director Zakiyyah Williams and Mayor Nancy Adams

Veterans and members of LZ Hope Charlie Company are recognized.

Anthony Shane, veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army

Deputy Mayor Jamaine Cripe and Mayor Nancy Adams

Flags are raised on a windless day.

Barbara Velasquez reads the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar

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