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Gettysburg Celebrates Juneteenth

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Gettysburg celebrated Juneteenth today with a Parade and Jamboree.  

The festivities began at noon when an interracial group of about a hundred people congregated in front of the Ploughman Taproom on Lincoln Square. 

Opening  remarks were provided by the event’s MC, Larock Hudson, who explained that Gettysburg’s first Juneteenth celebration was planned by a local organization called Indigenous Glow three years ago and that Juneteenth became an official borough event two years ago.

Indigenous Glow Director Blessing Shahid kicked off the event by singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem, a rousing hymn celebrating African American culture composed in 1899 by James Weldon Johnson.

This was followed by remarks from Chaundre Franklin, who had been named Miss Gettysburg Juneteenth 2022. Shahid, Franklin, and other VIPs wore traditional 19th century garb, which added a beautiful air of pomp to the festivities.

The next speaker, Mayor Rita Frealing, fittingly noticed that while Juneteenth started among Black Texans, it is relevant throughout the country to all people, and is especially germane in Gettysburg, where we commemorate a battle that played such a pivotal role in America’s quest for freedom. 

“The day was a recognition of the importance of Juneteenth, said Frealing when contacted after the event. “It was a celebration showcasing Gettysburg and our diverse community. I was impressed by the police involvement and their interaction with participants.”

Next on the agenda was a parade, which was led by a horse-drawn carriage in which Ms. Shahib and other Indigenous Glow members, all dressed in traditional 19th century vestments, sat, smiling and calling out “Happy Juneteenth!” to passers-by. 

“I want to point out how liberating it felt to ride through the town with other Black sisters in Victorian attire,” said Shahid. “It was an amazing feeling and I would love to see more women of color join us each year.” Shahid also thanked the many volunteers who made the event possible.

The Parade route visited significant sites in Gettysburg’s African-American history: St. Paul’s AME Zion Church; Jack Hopkin’s house; the Mayor’s home; the Franklin Street School; and Lincoln Cemetery. At each stop, experts made comments, educating those assembled about Gettysburg’s rich heritage of Black history.

The Parade ended at the rec park where Mama Gail Clouden, a non-denominational spiritual leader, led a libation ceremony honoring ancestors.

At this point, the day’s tone turned from educational to festive. Families and friends availed themselves of vendors selling Afrocentric clothes and accessories; soul food, Jamaican food, and Puerto Rican food.

Children played on a water slide and on a giant trampoline. 

A rich mix of rhythm and blues music, provided by a DJ as well as by professional singers including Corey Wims. entertained the public until 6:00 pm. 

The joyous and respectful day demonstrated that, as one sign proclaimed, “Black History is American History.”

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Dr. Paul Austerlitz is a Professor of Africana Studies and Music at Gettysburg College.

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