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Elmira Juneteenth 2020

Elmira Juneteenth 2020

( A virtual experience)

Theme: Cooperation vs Competition


Juneteenth is the oldest known nationally recognized celebration honoring the African American experience.  Grounded in the abolition of slavery, it is a celebration that fosters an appreciation for freedom and pride in a rich heritage and culture, particularly meaningful to Elmira. Our community was a destination stop for both the African American slaves traveling the Under­ground Railroad, and the Civil War soldiers who would determine the fate of slavery in this land. Such a history points to the great significance and poignancy of the Elmira Juneteenth commemoration, an annual event that brings people of our community together to celebrate family, self-empowerment and economic unity.


The African American experience is broad in nature. Not just history but it encompasses a thirst for education, a love for family and each other, a need to continue the fight for economic empowerment as it relates to job, healthcare and support to black owned businesses. The African American  heritage is rich in a variety of musical forms. And since the beginning, we have embraced our faith to keep us strong in the face of much adversity. You see, we have a variety of interest and Juneteenth is a celebration of all of them.


Ever since the days of slavery, constraining black education was used as a method to quell back agency and fears of slave rebellions. This denial only intensified Black people’s desire for education. After emancipation, black education was relegated to poorly funded segregated schools. But our mama’s and papa knew and would often speak of  the importance of getting a good education in order to move ahead.


Family and love for one another is another area of the Black experience. Before slavery was abolished, African American families were torn apart as parents and children were sold to different people and taken to various geographic areas. Instead of bemoaning their fate, many African Americans vowed to find their lost loved ones and, even before the end of slavery, saved money and made plans to find those they had lost and buy their freedom. The shared treachery of these early families created exceptionally strong emotional bonds that gave them the physical and psychological fortitude to carry on. Like the ideals of most ethnic groups in the country, African American family values reflect many common goals and principles.


Another area vital to the Black experience that we must spotlight and highlight during our celebration of Juneteenth is a need to continue the fight for economic empowerment as it relates to job, healthcare and support to black owned businesses. Black people in the United States make up one of the biggest consumer markets in the world. Black people spend about $1 trillion a year. This is huge. We spend so much money and still are seen as less than human by so many. Our money has made people rich over and over again. That is power. We have more power than we understand and our dollar is the biggest tool. With such a tremendous spending power we can change the climate of the world towards us if we use it. We need to use our dollars to empower ourselves economically. There are tons and tons of black businesses across the USA that we need to funnel our dollars into and support.


We need to stop making other people rich who don't care when little black children, black women, and our black men are killed by the police  and instead make someone who uplift us in our community rich. The more money we have and keep in our community the more we will be able to do. There are black farmers, black owned hair care product lines, black owned restaurants, black owned clothing lines, black owned fitness centers, black owned auto repair shops, black owned banks, etc. Every type of business you can think about, there is one owned by a black person. Economic empowerment has a major role in our fight to show people that Black Lives Matter. As we continue to face sad injustices our people have fought against since we were first kidnapped, captivated, and forced into slavery we must look at all of our options to stay above water. We must continue to take to the streets, become public officials, educate, spread the word, and we must empower ourselves economically. All of these things will help us achieve what we have always wanted, and that is equality and liberation.


The African American  heritage is rich in a variety of musical forms. Music is a means of expression, music

connects emotions — hope, regret, love — and our stories. As a form of communication, music connects us with other human beings, our inner spirits, and our history in a way that words alone cannot. Music is the human language that bridges cultures, genders, and generations. African Americans and the musical culture they brought to this country – developed within the bonds of slavery out of the traditional African slave spirituals, work calls and chants. Of all the developing genres, the blues would be the most far-reaching, with its influence felt in everything from jazz to rock, country music to rhythm and blues, and classical music.  

Music played a central role in the African American civil rights struggles of the 20th century, and objects linked directly to political activism bring to light the roles that music and musicians played in movements for equality and justice.


As it relates to the African American experience and religion, I hve to say this. Religion, particularly Christianity, has played an outsize role in African American history. While most Africans brought to the New World to be slaves were not Christians when they arrived, many of them and their descendants embraced Christianity, finding comfort in the Biblical message of spiritual equality and deliverance. In post-Civil War America, a burgeoning black church played a key role strengthening African American communities and in providing key support to the civil rights movement.


I’ll close with some information about the Elmira Juneteenth Celebration. The Juneteenth Committee, in partnership with the Economic Opportunity Program (EOP), will host the 19th Annual Elmira Juneteenth Celebration 2020 virtually from June 13-19, 2020.  Our theme, “Cooperation over Competition.” The week’s activities will include daily TV informational spots, social media activities, and the opportunity to enjoy ethnic foods from food trucks parked at EOP on Friday the 19th – the 155th anniversary of the first Juneteenth Celebration!


Join us! Participate with us. Learn about us!

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