Juneteenth in Brighton, North Street and Outlook Field

Juneteenth in Brighton, North Street and Outlook Field

[6/19/21 Brighton Town Supervisor William Moehle raising The Juneteenth flag at the Town of Brighton’s Inaugural Juneteenth Flag Raising Ceremony. Photos: David Kramer]

Yesterday, the Town of Brighton held its Inaugural Juneteenth Flag Raising Ceremony where the Honorable William W. Moehle raised the flag and read a Proclamation to be displayed in the Town Hall. Along with others, Supervisor Moehle and Town Councilmember Robin Wilt offered remarks.

Juneteenth 2021 at the Brighton Town Hall. Speaking is Sarah Clark (D), NYS Assembly Member, 136th District.

As Juneteenth just became a national holiday, the talks provided background on the events of June 19th, 1865 and the place and significance of Juneteenth in American history.¹

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. On June 17, 2021, it officially became a federal holiday.

For example, from Bill we learned that Major General Gordon Granger who issued the order declaring slaves to be free was from Sodus, NY.

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, and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. [italics mine] The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

More importantly, Bill focused on key phrases in Granger’s General Order, particularly that former slaves were meant to understand that whites would be the employers, and they the hired labor. Juneteenth marked only the barest beginning of equality for former slaves. Afterwards, Bill and I noted that one doesn’t have to be a Marxist to hear what Granger was saying: if white Galveston had its way, chattel slavery would simply be replaced with wage slavery.

(l-r) Daniel Aman, Brighton Town Clerk, Jason DiPonzio and Robin Wilt, Brighton Town Board, Karen Morris , Brighton Town Judge, Chris Werner and Christine Corrado Brighton Town Board

Robin’s speech was more personal, remarking that she is only the second Brighton Black woman to serve in elected office and the only member of the Town Board directly impacted by chattel slavery in the Americas.

Robin framed Juneteenth as a dichotomy, saying: “We must recognize the dichotomy of Juneteenth as we raise a flag in a community that is largely racially segregated and still bears the scars of restrictive covenants, redlining, and steering.” Afterwards — to a degree proving her point — Robin and I counted only about six people of color at the event, including a couple of invited guests.

Brighton Town Supervisor William Moehle, Robin Wilt speaking, sitting is Delores Jackson Radney who performed as Anna Murray Douglass.  See Jackson Radley’s full speech in which she calls for Reparations, Now!  Delores Jackson Radley 2021Juneteenthtalk 

6/19/21. Brighton Town Hall. Rochester City School District President and Democratic candidate for Monroe County Judge, Van White in his Civil Right’s Museum on Wheels. Van mentioned to the gathering that he skipped a visit to Webster to be at the inaugural event in Brighton where Van was raised.

In her closing words, Robin offered us a challenge:

Holding a Juneteenth observation in a predominantly white space is a dichotomy, in and of itself. I challenge everyone at this observance to disrupt their own patterns today and spend time in predominantly Black spaces. Take an action to support Black joy. Get involved in an effort that supports equity and justice in our community.

I accepted her challenge.

After the ceremony, while it’s not an unfamiliar experience, I biked through predominantly Black neighborhoods in the city of Rochester, finding myself at a food-and-clothing giveaway on North Street across from Miracle Valley Deliverance City.

Carleton was cooking delicious ribs and chickens. Carleton is such a perfectionist that he kept saying we had to wait longer until his creations were perfectly smoked.

I talked with Miracle Valley Deliverance City Pastor James Hartsfield. James said the event was not planned for Juneteenth, but is a regular occurrence sponsored by his church. I told him about Robin’s (who he knows) challenge to spend time today in predominantly Black spaces. James responded that you could call this a Black space — I was one of two white people — but it’s much more than that: a People Place and God’s Place. Pastor Hartsfield invited me back.

 

6/19/21. North Street, Rochester, NY. (left) James Hartsfield, Pastor at Miracle Valley Deliverance City with congregant; (right) Having cooked in local restaurants for decades, Carleton claims he is the ultimate expert when it comes to smoking all types of foods.

That evening I went to the 2nd Annual Juneteenth Teen Poetry Slam moved from the Highland Bowl to Outlook Field next to the reservoir. Robin had asked us to “Take an action to support Black joy.”

6/19/21 Outlook Field in Highland Park, # 6 on the raised map. With megaphone, master of ceremonies Mikey Johnson, organizer at SAVE ROCHESTER-BLM.

The crowd was mostly Black, but mixed. I asked one white man, there with a friend, why his shirt read THEORY in various grammatical forms. The answer was elementary; the two studied Theoretical Physics at the University of Rochester. Brighton Town Judge Karen Morris was back, handing out flyers on voting. The teen poets appeared to be mostly from the Rochester City School District.

Between the ribs on North Street and the pizza at Outlook Field, I ate enough for the weekend.

6/19/21, Outlook Field in Highland Park, (l) Brighton Town Judge Karen Morris with Pastor Cuevas Walker, Director of GO Ministries. Cuevas read one of his poems; (r) Master of ceremonies Mikey Johnson leading the standing crowd in a rendition of James Weldon Johnson’s hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (1900) referred to by Mickey Johnson as the Black national anthem.

The teen poets recited pieces on Black history, their identity as young people of color, as well as on the meaning of life. Inglish Davis (top right) drew laughs for her poem on being told not to be loud — that she read very loudly. Inglish won the $300 first prize.

The youth poets

I also told master of ceremonies Mikey Johnson, an organizer at SAVE ROCHESTER-BLM about Robin’s challenge. Mickey said that while, of course all are welcome, the youth poetry slam in Highland Park was, for him, definitely a Black space: a place where Black culture and traditions are embraced, celebrated, and transmitted over the generations.

Have you taken the challenge?

NOTE

Brightonian Dr. Rashid Muhammad gave some short remarks. Echoing Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech in Rochester, “What is the Fourth of July to the Slave?,” Muhammad asked us to consider what Juneteenth means to us. On the question, magazine contributor Karen Nozik writes:

Juneteenth means that I live in a country that is able to recognize its own past mistakes, have self awareness, to evolve, and to improve— a country still grappling with its own history and its original sin of slavery.

6/19/21 Brighton Town Supervisor William Moehle with Dr. Rashid Muhammad

It makes me believe that while we haven’t yet arrived, we can strive to become a more perfect union. So to me personally, Juneteenth represents slow progress towards change. It’s uplifting and inspiring in a personal way. — Karen Nozik

SEE ALSO 

Long Before Juneteenth, There Was the First of August

Voting early at Empire State College and celebrating Loving Day at Brighton Town Park

About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, and the CITY.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

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