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‘The Blackest weekend in Bayonne’

Black in Bayonne and the Bayonne NAACP brought culture to the city in a celebration for residents of color and allies

The Juneteenth Celebration at 16th Street Park was a great festival for people of color and allies alike. Photos by Daniel Israel.

For Juneteenth 2022, local Black organizations in Bayonne banded together to celebrate the holiday and provide a cultural fix. Billed by those organizing it as “the Blackest weekend in Bayonne” yet, the three days of non-stop opportunities exceeded expectations.

Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when 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. This was two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, meaning that the slaves in Texas and elsewhere in the Confederacy remained enslaved until Union troops arrived to enforce the Proclamation.

The celebration began with the raising of the Pan-African flag on Thursday, June 16. This was the third time the flag was raised in front of City Hall at 630 Avenue C by non-profit Black in Bayonne, co-founded by Camille High, Clarice High, Shaniqua Borders, and Rashad Callaway.

On Friday, the fun continued with a block party hosted by Black in Bayonne in conjunction with DRIP Gelato and Cafe. Hundreds gathered for good fun and better food and refreshments at the gelato hub at 439 Avenue C.

DJ Bobby B blasted the music, while attendees danced and enjoyed themselves. Attendees of all ages played Double Dutch, while children drew with chalk on the sidewalk. There was plenty of gelato and sorbet, and an array of delightful soul food.

The block party at DRIP Gelato on June 17 saw the community come together to celebrate Juneteenth.

Black in Bayonne gathered donations prior to help make the event “free-ish” as possible. The event also received support from and saw appearances by state Assemblyman William Sampson, Councilman At-Large-elect Loyad Booker, and the Skee’s Way Foundation, among others. From 5 to 10 p.m. the party rocked that portion of the block on Avenue C.

Free gelato, soul food, music, and networking made for a good time.

Bayonne NAACP hosts festival at 16th Street Park

The Juneteenth festivities didn’t stop there. The weekend culminated with the inaugural Juneteenth Celebration hosted by the Bayonne branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 16th Street Park, led by current President Donald Byrd.

Hundreds of people gathered for the Juneteenth Celebration in 16th Street Park on June 18.

The celebration was filled with fun throughout the park, on both the upper and lower level, from shopping opportunities, food for sale, a 50/50 raffle, information booths, and much more. So many vendors lined the square plaza at the center on the lower level of the park, with a variety of wares for sale from Black-owned businesses, including a special Juneteenth t-shirt to commemorate the occasion.

There were plenty of vendors selling a myriad of wares at the festival, with options for all ages.

It was options galore when it came to food, with food trucks and stalls scattered across the park. From sweet treats to savory dishes, there was plenty of choices to shop from such as Vic’s Jerk Chicken or Grandma Emma’s

From deep fried cobbler bites, to jerk chicken, there were plenty of soul food fixings at the Juneteenth Celebration.

There was a steady supply of entertainment to boot. The celebration featured performance from David “Doc” Watson with Ambrosia performing jazz saxophone and singing to the Bayonne High School Steppers stomping the house down, among other stellar acts at the 16th Street Park amphitheater.

Those in attendance enjoyed performances by an array of artists, and laughed and talked amongst themselves in between each act.

The Juneteenth Classic

At 3 p.m., a Juneteenth Classic Basketball Game was held at the 16th Street Park courts on the upper level of the park. The teams were led by basketball coaches James Turner and Johnny Callaway.

James Turner (left) and Johnny Callaway (right), who have both coached at Bayonne High School in the past, led teams that played in the Juneteenth Classic.

The festive game hosted by Ty Nitty, better known as Jerell Borders, was a highlight of the day, pitting former players and other local basketballers against each other in an All Stars-esque format. The friendly-yet-competitive game was match-up made to be.

The Red Team, coached by Turner.

Both teams saw an outpouring of support in what will likely be a recurring part of the Juneteenth Celebration. There’s nothing like a game of basketball between old friends, right?

The Black Team, coached by Callaway.

Prior to and after the game, attendees made great use the courts, shooting hoops. Ty Nitty supplied hilarious commentary with support from DJs Macho and Tru Ming funded by the Old School Bladers.

Even city officials joined the fun, with Mayor James Davis showing off his basketball skills.

Overall, the weekend was a loud and proud display of Black culture in Bayonne on Juneteenth that was an absolute blast for people of color and allies alike. The successful celebrations have undoubtedly paved the way for the weekend full of festivities to become an annual tradition for Juneteenth in Bayonne, with high hopes for further growth in the future.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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