Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States, celebrating the liberation of African Americans that was finalized by decree of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, and the arrival of the Union Army in Texas June 19, 1865, following the end of the Civil War.
The City of Lewes will hold its Juneteenth celebration from 1 to 6 p.m., Saturday, June 25, at George H.P. Smith Park. The date was chosen to avoid conflict with the Georgetown event.
“We do want to support each other’s Juneteenth and that is the main reason why we did not have it on the same day,” said committee member Trina Brown-Hicks.
The primary objective of the day is to educate attendees about the meaning of the holiday. The event will feature educational speakers, poets, dance troops, musical guests and a surprise guest.
The Rev. George Edwards Sr. of Friendship Baptist Church will open festivities at 1 p.m. The Rev. Dr. Deborah McCaffity of St. George A.M.E. Church will discuss the meaning of Juneteenth.
A yet-to-be announced special guest will also be speaking. Mayor Andrew Williams will deliver a proclamation on behalf of the City of Lewes.
One of the founders of Juneteenth in Sussex County, Jane Hovington of the Richard Allen Coalition, will discuss the history of the holiday shortly before 2 p.m.
2020 Miss National Juneteenth, Saniya Gay, hits the stage about 15 minutes later to talk about prioritizing the holiday within her generation as a way to preserve that history.
Stell Parker Selby will be talk about the unique history of African Americans in Lewes. Maull Martin will read poems written by Donna Cuff and Leonia Robinson.
Before the Rev. John Moore delivers the final words to ceremoniously end the event, there will be presentations and acknowledgements made to former Mayor George H.P. Smith, former Mayor Ted Becker, former Police Chief Beau Gooch and a few other officials.
Dance troops and praise team
Presentations will be sandwiched in between the rhythmic movements and stunning visuals provided by two dance groups. DAANDE LENOL African Dance and Drum – The Voice of the Community begins performing at 3:30 p.m. on the grass in front of the stage. The Nanticoke Indian Dancers and Drum follows the presentations in the same area, but with their own routines, beginning at 4:10 p.m. The heavenly sounds of Bethel Milton A.M.E. Praise Team are scheduled to ring out across the grounds at 1:30 p.m., following the special guest.
In addition to professional dancers, attendees will be welcome to move their feet to the musical stylings of Christy Taylor & Golden Branch, Michael Hines & The Look, and Dr. Nichele Mason & Performers. Dr. Mason uses American Sign Language and pre-recorded music in her performances, giving those with hearing impairments the opportunity to take part in the music. She begins at 1:55 p.m. Performing on stage with a full band at 2:20 p.m. is Christy Taylor & Golden Branch, who are scheduled in between Miss National Juneteenth and Parker Selby. Mike Hines & The Look wrap up celebrations when they hit the stage at 4:30 p.m. and play up until the final words of the Rev. Moore.
Auto enthusiasts will be delighted to know there is a classic car show planned for the day. Classic cars and motorcycles will enter the park at the circle gravel road near the Fred Thomas Building on DuPont Avenue and park for display in that area. Attendants will facilitate parking. Organizers advise those participating in the car show to bring their own lawn chair or shade from the sun if necessary.
The lot that is usually open on DuPont Avenue will be closed and is a designated area for drop off and pick up for drivers and services like the Lewes Line, which officials encourage attendees to utilize. There will be no street parking on DuPont Avenue. Overflow and vendor parking is available at the five-plus acres adjacent to the school building. Officials say there will be enough parking for roughly 500 cars. Handicap drivers and people with disabilities will also be permitted to use the drop off and pick up area, where a volunteer will help them enter the park.
Event organizers have met with Chief Thomas Spell multiple times about security and feel extremely confident in the public safety coordination in place.
“Chief Spell has it under control. The Lewes Police Department will be out in full force and so if there is any necessary, reach out to other agencies, I’m sure he will be able to make that call,” Brown-Hicks said.
Officials are planning for 500 to 1,000 people to attend the celebration. Extensive planning and meetings have been taking place to ensure that hand sanitizers, masks, and first aid will be available.
Police officers, traffic control and volunteers will be strategically placed throughout the park to assist people in need.
Volunteers, wearing bright yellow and green shirts, will be found throughout the park. Parking volunteers will arrive at 9 a.m. Coordinating with public safety members, parking volunteers will guide vendors to the drop off and pick up area.
Brown-Hicks is still seeking volunteers to help with loading and unloading equipment, tent breakdowns and cleanup. Volunteers will begin work Friday morning and may work when their personal schedules permit. Anyone interested should contact Brown-Hicks at 302-752-8112. The first 50 volunteers will receive a T-shirt and will be fed.
The celebration is free and open to the public. No alcohol will be permitted, but all ages are welcome to come out and learn more about the significance of Juneteenth and take part in the celebration of freedom. More information about the event can be found on the Facebook page Memories of Lewes.