Bayonne NAACP President reflects on success of Juneteenth Celebration

Donald Byrd is pleased with this year's event and is looking forward to next year

The president of the Bayonne branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) says he’s proud of the inaugural Juneteenth Celebration held on June 18 in 16th Street Park.

The celebration featured: food trucks; vendors; music; dance and other live entertainment at the park’s amphitheater; and even a Juneteenth Classic basketball game. The festivities were more akin to a family cookout, with many familiar faces of the community coming out to show their support.

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Donald Byrd III was pleased with the success of the event, and in an interview with the Bayonne Community News, he reflected on how the celebration came to be.

Byrd extended his gratitude to all those involved. He especially thanked the city of Bayonne and Mayor James Davis, the Bayonne Department of Public Works and Director Tom Cotter, the Bayonne Recreation Department and Supervisor Pete Amadeo, the Bayonne Police Department and Chief Robert Geisler, the Bayonne Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools John Niesz, and the several organizations that helped contribute to the event. 

“I’d just like to thank them for helping us in terms of making this Juneteenth event such a success.” 

Byrd especially thanked the Bayonne Police Department for keeping the event safe. 

“My primary focus at the time was safety, because that’s critical,” Byrd said. “The Police Department was so instrumental, especially with my primary concern of safety and control. They kept everything so tight it was unreal.” 

Byrd went on to thank Lieutenant David Conti and Sergeant Steven Rhodes, who is also a NAACP chairperson. He additionally extended thanks to the Hudson Reporter and Bayonne Community News, as well as the other media outlets that covered the event. 

“I just want to make it clear that the NAACP gives thanks to everyone that was with us,” Byrd said.

Attendees hail inaugural Juneteenth festivities

Many attendees of the celebration were on the same page with Byrd, that the event was a trailblazing success in a city not necessarily known for its cultural celebrations of communities of color. He noted that one such person was 86-year-old Margaret Hamiel, who moved to Bayonne from Greenville, South Carolina in 1959 and has been a member of the local NAACP for over 50 years.

“It was good to see the people of the Bayonne community come together to enjoy themselves,” Hamiel told 50Bold. “It shows that we have some power to make things happen.”

Hamiel also praised the Pan-African flag raising hosted by Black in Bayonne the Thursday before the celebration as well as other events that took place on Juneteenth weekend.

“I know we don’t talk about everything to our children, but we must take the time to do so,” Hamiel said. “They need to know about our history, put their phones away, and also be aware of what’s happening in the Bayonne community.”

With the smash success of this year’s festivities, Byrd is looking forward to the second iteration of the event next year. This is yet another sign of the cultural shift and burgeoning Black community in Bayonne.

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

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