Juneteenth Reflections

Residents observed with cultural activities and a three-day weekend for some

Families enjoy the scenery, breeze, and festivities during ‘Juneteenth – A Celebration of Freedom’ at Eisenhower Park on Sunday, June 19, 2022.
(Credit: Janet Burns)

Celebrations and cultural events marked Juneteenth 2022 across Nassau County, including spacious outdoor gatherings that drew hundreds of families to both Hicksville LIRR and Eisenhower Park.

The second annual Juneteenth Cultural Festival by Black Legacy Partners, LLC took place in a large paved lot near the Hicksville train station, fronted by a sunny patch of West Barclay street that was blocked off for pedestrian traffic by Oyster Bay Police and Safety services.
Hundreds of attendees of all ages strolled among dozens of stalls featuring local vendors and community groups across the pavement, framed by a groove-filled bandshell and popular food trucks on either side.

Spencer Casseus, Vice President of Partnerships and Events for Black Legacy Partners, told Anton Media Group that Juneteenth is “a very important holiday, especially the history, the stories, and the blood, sweat, and tears that have been shed for this particular day to happen.”

“It’s extremely important that we bring a festival like this to Hicksville,” he said. “We’re not only bringing Black culture to Hicksville but also introducing a new community to what Juneteenth is all about.”

Casseus added, “This day would not have happened without the support of our sponsors, like TD Bank, Mattress Firm, National Grid, and Fidelis Care, who stepped up and showed up to show their commitment to diversity on Long Island.”

L to R: Spencer Casseus, VP of Partnerships and Events and Kestle Bess, President and Founder of Black Legacy Partners pose for a photo during their firm’s second-annual Juneteenth Festival in Hicksville on June 19, 2022. (Credit: Janet Burns)

A few miles away, another large day-of Juneteenth event also sent music wafting on the breeze from Eisenhower Park’s Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre, where Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Kevan M. Abrahams and Legislators Siela A. Bynoe and Carrié Solages partnered with the Joysetta & Julius Pearse African American Museum of Nassau County, the Nassau Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the Nassau County Guardians Association, Inc., and dozens of local vendors and community groups for ‘Juneteenth – A Celebration of Freedom.’

Performers included Everton Bailey and the Instrumental Sounds of Praise and the Uniondale High School Rhythm of the Knight show choir, and an array of inflatable games and play equipment sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union helped kids pass the time between food, friends, entertainment, education, and other endeavors.

A Nassau County press release for the event noted, “Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States [and] specifically refers to the June 19, 1865 issuance of Union General Gordon Granger’s ‘General Order No. 3,’ which brought news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to the people of Texas [two and a half years late] in these words: ‘The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free … This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves…”

In a phone interview last week, Legislator Bynoe said that the Juneteenth holiday is “really a time to recommit our efforts toward human equality and dignity for all humankind.” She also promoted legislation she submitted in early February that would make Juneteenth a paid holiday for Nassau County employees, plus legislation to address “the same technicalities that every other municipal government has had to address” in terms of hammering out the details with local labor unions. As of last year, Juneteenth is recognized as both a federal holiday and a New York State holiday, in addition to being observed by various municipalities.

L to R: Claudine Hall, Cherice P. Vanderhall Wilson, and Helena Lyttle of the Nassau Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Legislator Siela A. Bynoe (Westbury); Lynn Singleton, Lorna Atmore, and Ieda McCullough of the Nassau County Guardians Association, Inc. pause for a photo during ‘Juneteenth: a Celebration of Freedom’ on June 19, 2022 at Eisenhower Park. (Credit: Janet Burns)

“The Town of Oyster Bay, the Town of Hempstead, the City of Long Beach, and Suffolk County are all celebrating with a paid holiday,” Legislator Bynoe said. “We’re behind the curve here. I’m imploring my colleagues at the legislature to call this item, and they can do so by emergency [procedure] on June 27, which could allow folks to know that, come 2023, they can celebrate with a paid day off.”

Asked for comment on the proposed legislation, County Executive Bruce Blakeman wrote, “We are having the largest Juneteenth celebration in Nassau County history. Paid holidays are the subject of negotiations through collective bargaining with the Unions. In addition, coming out of years of budgetary pressures we would have to seriously consider the financial impact of another paid holiday.”

Legislator Carrié Solages told Anton Media Group at Eisenhower Park on Sunday that appreciating and recognizing days dedicated to freedom is “more important than ever now, especially when we see hate incidents like in Buffalo, where the only supermarket in a Black community was targeted.” Twelve people were shot, and ten Black people were killed, during the attack by a white supremacist teenager in Buffalo on May 14.

Regarding the proposal to make Juneteenth a paid county holiday, Legislator Solanges commented, “I support Legislator Bynoe’s initiative to provide holiday benefits for county employees, which must [first] be negotiated with employee unions.”

Partipants chat, eat, and pose for photos at a Brown Skin Brunchin’ Juneteenth event at Oulala Cafe in Lynbrook on June 18, 2022. (Credit: Nyia Morgan)

Regardless of whether they live in a municipality that offers a paid holiday this year, communities across Long Island hosted many different public Juneteenth celebrations and commemorations this year, reaching from Elmont to Riverhead and ranging from library hours to brunches. But most event organizers who spoke to Anton Media Group emphasized the same thing: that education, and progress through partnership, must accompany the joy of celebrating our freedom(s).

“Juneteenth is very important. The freeing of the slaves was important. The African-American struggle through discrimination is important,” said Michelle Mitchell, Long Island Ambassador for Brown Skin Brunchin’, in an email to Anton Media Group. The popular networking group, which held its Juneteenth Brunch in Lynbrook on Saturday, also “encourages everyone to celebrate and reflect on the importance of this day in American history,” according to Brown Skin Brunchin’s website.

On the subject of whether June 19 should become a paid if perhaps employer-mandated holiday here in Nassau County as well as the U.S., Mitchell commented, “Juneteenth should be recognized as a paid holiday, just like New Year’s Day, when we get paid time [to start] a new year. We should get paid time for our emancipation.”

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