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Laurel celebrates Juneteenth

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Posted on: July 10, 2024


The Juneteenth Line Dancers perform on the Granville Gude Park’s Harrison Burton Memorial Stage during the Juneteenth Celebration on June 22.
Courtesy of Aiesha Solomon

On June 22, Laurel residents gathered in Granville Gude Park, under a sweltering, hot summer sun, to celebrate Juneteenth.

People cooled down under shade trees, enjoyed musical and dance performances from the Harrison Burton Memorial Stage, visited vendor tables, played games on the park’s field and enjyed food, drinks and chilly desserts.

As the city stated in a press release, Juneteenth “commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality and justice.”.

Laurel resident Tammy Faucette, who participated in the celebration, reflected on  the importance of  Juneteenth.

“I think [marking this day] is wonderful. I think it’s very much needed. We need to be reminded where we came from as a people. How we got here. What occurred during the years, up through the years, until this present day because I think a lot of us, the young people, have forgotten, so they need to know, and this celebration is a catalyst for our population and everybody, not just African Americans, but everybody. To know the history, to learn the history, to be proud of the history, right where we come from,” Faucette said at the event.

This year’s Juneteenth Celebration had about 40 vendors, according to Sandra Choute, chairwoman of the city’s Juneteenth Executive Planning Committee. She added that Sam’s Club provided free water.

“It’s grown. It’s grown tremendously. We have far more vendors. We had much more visibility leading up to the event with the billboards,” said Ummi Modeste, secretary of the Juneteenth Executive Planning Committee, in an interview at the event. “The electronic billboards around the city, were all since the beginning of June, they’ve all been showing that it’s coming.”

Planning for the event began in September or October. Choute said that the celebration generally costs $4,000 to $5,000. 

“We submit a budget to the city. If they’re able to support us, we get that, but a lot of … our funds come from the vending applications that are submitted,” Choute said.

The city held a  Juneteenth flag raising ceremony at the Laurel Municipal Center on June 19.

“Yes, that was the first [Juneteenth] Flag Raising Ceremony in the City of Laurel. A historic moment for the City,” wrote Choute in a text. 

The flag raising event was a collaboration between the Juneteenth Executive Planning Committee, and Mayor Keith Sydnor and his office. 

Approximately 50 people attended the flag raising event, according to City Councilmember Kyla Clark (Ward 2), a member of the Juneteenth Executive Planning Committee. 

“What I hope that people see, not only from this [Juneteenth Celebration] that we have here, but also from the Juneteenth flag, is that we’ve come a long way in America, in particular, and we’re making a lot of strides as far as diversity, respect, morals and ethics, but we also have a long way to go and that we have to do that together,” Clark said. “We’re stronger together to fight hate, to fight crime, to fight racism, but we can’t do it alone, and so we have to help and support each other, even if [those elements aren’t] directly affecting us.”



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