Juneteenth Celebration Highlights Historic Importance of the Day

Easton celebrated Juneteenth with music, history lessons, and socially distant picnicking. The goal was to bring together the community to meet neighbors and learn about the history and traditions of Juneteenth. More details about the history of the day can be found in our announcement about Easton’s Juneteenth celebration, here.

The evening started and concluded with music by the band Steve Clarke and Friends. Band members Clarke, Brad Rickert, and Theresa Wright played a wide range of inspirational songs from Aretha Franklin to Bob Marley.

Theresa Wright sings at Easton Juneteenth Celebration - Tomas Koeck photo
Theresa Wright sings at Easton Juneteenth Celebration – Tomas Koeck photo

A number of town residents and officials spoke, including First Selectman Dave Bindelglass, State Rep. Anne Hughes, and residents Wiley Mullins, Lila Estime, and Dr. Whendi Cook-Broderick. Hughes pledged to take the momentum from the community to the state, where Democrats recently unveiled a Juneteenth agenda aimed at sweeping police accountability reform and safe voting access.

“It’s surreal to see states, towns, cities recognizing this day,” Estime said.

Lila Estime addresses the crowd at the Juneteenth celebration - Tomas Koeck photo
Lila Estime addresses the crowd at the Juneteenth celebration – Tomas Koeck photo

Mullins, who helped organize the event, was pleased to see it run smoothly. “We decided this would be our first annual. We’re really hoping to continue this next year.”

Co-organizer Devon Wible said, “The Juneteenth event was a great celebration of an important day in American history … I look forward to celebrating Juneteenth every year in Easton going forward.”

During the celebration, Mullins spoke about the difference between Emancipation Day, the day the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, and Juneteenth. Mullins also spoke about a personal family connection to Juneteenth, telling the audience that Juneteenth “really meant something” to his grandmother, born in 1897.

Wiley Mullins addresses the crowd at the Juneteenth celebration - Tomas Koeck photo
Wiley Mullins addresses the crowd at the Juneteenth celebration – Tomas Koeck photo

Cook-Broderick, an emancipatory educator and professor at Concordia College, also spoke at the event. She related the country’s history of slavery back to Easton and Redding, noting that Samuel Staples was a slave owner. She explained most historical records about people of color come from churches where they were baptized, and challenged the crowd to think about the duality of owning slaves yet having them baptized to save their souls.

Dr. Whendi Cook-Broderick speaks about the history of enslavement in Easton and Redding - Tomas Koeck photo
Dr. Whendi Cook-Broderick speaks about the history of enslavement in Easton and Redding – Tomas Koeck photo

Many people felt the event accomplished its goal of educating. Police Chief Richard Doyle attended as a civilian. “I thought it was excellent. For me, personally, I found it very educational,” he said.

“The celebration was a beautiful opportunity to learn about Easton’s history and the history of Juneteenth,” resident Abbie Winter said. “I look forward to celebrating Juneteenth with Easton in the future.”

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