Easton held its second Juneteenth celebration this year, hosted by the Easton Diversity & Inclusion Task Force (EDIT). This year’s event focused on teaching attendees about the history of the day and more broadly about the African diaspora. The African diaspora refers to the “mass dispersion of peoples from Africa during the Transatlantic Slave Trades, from the 1500s to the 1800s.”
To support the educational component of the day, EDIT had the Juneteenth flag and African American art on display in the Morehouse Park pavilion for all to enjoy. The pavilion was also decorated with the Juneteenth flag and exhibits with information about cultural symbols of West Africa, the African diaspora, information regarding the early experience of African Americans in Easton, and historical biographies of accomplished Black residents in Connecticut. Attendees were also welcomed to make beaded friendship bracelets that incorporated the colors of Juneteenth.
The day’s program included several speeches and calls to action. Whendi Cook-Broderick, co-chair of EDIT, opened with a rousing and joyful welcome. Cook-Broderick greeted the audience by singing and reciting lines from a greeting song from Malawi, a small diverse country in southeast Africa. The greeting encompassed a message of seeing one another with open hearts and minds.
Many of Connecticut and Easton’s political delegation attended: U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, state Senator Tony Hwang, state Rep. Anne Hughes and First Selectman David Bindelglass all spoke. Many of the speeches emphasized the importance of towns around Connecticut commemorating the day, and the ongoing work to be done to address and eradicate racism.
All members of the delegation applauded the recent declaration of Juneteenth as a national holiday and the degree of bipartisan support for this action. Many also reflected on the ongoing dialogue around race in the country.
“We celebrate today an emancipation that makes us proud, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Blumenthal, referring to the heightened focus in the nation and local communities around issues of race and racism, and the importance of advocating for voting rights and upholding the principles of our democracy.
Himes discussed the importance of holding Juneteenth celebrations and engaging in continued efforts to dismantle systemic racism in all communities. “Racism is not just a Bridgeport issue. This is an Easton issue, and this is an American issue.”
Bindelglass expressed pride that the town was able to orchestrate another Juneteenth celebration, and underscored the importance of continued efforts to make Easton an inclusive, welcoming community for all.
“We can be Americans, we can be Eastonites, we can be ourselves; all those things are possible at the same time,” said Bindelglass.
Wiley Mullins, Easton resident and civic organizer, distributed free Moon Pies to all in attendance later in the day, explaining that the pies were a staple at his family’s Juneteenth celebrations in Alabama. He explained that chicken was also a part of his family’s Juneteenth meal; together, the foods symbolized the desire to “be free to fly,” “persevere against adversity” and “shoot for the moon.”
Mullins also reflected on Easton’s first Juneteenth celebration in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd. He expressed his delight that the town was again acknowledging this holiday.
“To me, Juneteenth is about hope and giving people hope for a better future,” said Mullins.
In addition to the speakers and activities, local musician Kwame Henry Jones performed a set. His music included songs with relevance to the meaning of Juneteenth.