History was made on June 19, 2020 in Bayonne as the Pan-African flag rose over city hall. The flag-raising ceremony commemorated Juneteenth, the day word of the Emancipation Proclamation reached slaves in Texas.
In 1865, Major General Gordon Granger landed with Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas, spreading word that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
However, it is important to note this was two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, meaning that the slaves in the Confederacy remained enslaved until Union troops arrived to enforce the Proclamation.
In Bayonne, the Pan-African flag was raised over city hall for the first time in history.
The event organized by Black in Bayonne, the local black activist organization that held the peaceful Power in the Park demonstration against police brutality on June 7.
On site, the “celebration” included dancing and speeches before the flag ceremony. Prior to the raising of the Pan-African flag, three young black girls from Bayonne spoke to the crowd.
Empowering black youth
Eva Johnson, Sariah Turner, and Jaya Woolfolk spoke and sang before a crowd of hundreds of people in front of city hall on Avenue C.
Johnson, an honor roll student at Nicholas Oresko School, sang a moving rendition of “Glory” by John Legend.
Turner, a junior at Bayonne High School and aspiring actress, model, and cherographer, spoke about the origins of Juneteenth.
“Juneteenth celebrates not only the commemoration of the day all slaves were freed, but to remind all people of African American history,” Turner said. “Today we honor our culture and history as well as encourage non-black to learn about this significant day in our country.”
Woolfolk, an honor roll student at Empowerment Academy, spoke last about how many residents celebrate Juneteenth and the importance of the celebration.
“Many people get together for ceremonies that include public service awards, prayers, and the raising of the Juneteenth flag,“ Woolfolk said. “It’s also a time to for African-Americans to celebrate their heritage.”
Black in Bayonne promoted the local black youth on social media in the lead-up to the event, as part of its effort to give young people a voice and role in the movement.
“#BlackinBayonne is determined to empower youth by including them on our path to positive change,” Black in Bayonne said in a statement on social media. “We believe in nurturing their smarts, gifts and talents. We hope that our platform will continue to encourage them, too, to take action by pushing and instilling these qualities: Courage, Humanity, and Wisdom.”
Local officials in attendance
Some local elected officials, including Mayor James Davis, were onsite to celebrate Juneteenth with residents.
“We raised the Pan-African flag at city hall today to celebrate Juneteenth,” Davis said. “I was honored to be joined by our council members as we recognize Bayonne’s African-American community!”
Also on hand for the flag raising was City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, Councilman Juan Perez and 2nd Ward Councilman Sal Gullace.
“Juneteenth marks an important day in our history,” Davis said. “Let’s all pray for unity, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity!”
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