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State College Community Members Hold Area's First Juneteenth Celebration

by on June 19, 2020 6:12 PM

State College's first Juneteenth celebration brought together community members for an afternoon of speeches, poetry, prayer and musical performances on Friday.

The commemoration, organized by the State College chapter of the NAACP, began at the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza on South Fraser Street, then continued online with a virtual event.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African Americans in 1865.

Last year, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law Act 9 which designated June 19 as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day” in Pennsylvania. State College Mayor Ron Filippelli also proclaimed the date as Juneteenth Freedom Day in the borough and read the proclamation at the start of Friday's celebration.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., also advocated this week for making Juneteenth a national holiday.

While celebrations are common elsewhere around the country, Friday's celebration was the first of its kind in Centre County.

“Right now, the African American community is hurting," Lorraine Jones, president of the State College NAACP, said prior to the event. "We need something positive happening to reflect on and give us hope. Juneteeth is a very timely reminder of our heritage and great strength; like our ancestors, we must trust the struggle and know joy comes in the morning.”

Pastor Harold McKenzie led a prayer at the start of the Juneteenth celebration. "We pray that as we celebrate, we also honor those in our past, in our present, who have so labored that freedom would mean the same for every person, every black person and every person of color in our nation and our community," McKenzie said. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com


Tierra Williams recites Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com


Joy Hodge dances as drummers play. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com


A crowd gathered at the MLK Plaza on South Fraser Street for State College's first Juneteenth celebration. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.comPhoto by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com

Andre Marshall, a rising senior at State College Area High, spoke about ongoing systemic racism and all those who have stood against it.  "No matter how big or small you think the contribution you have made is, you will be in history as someone who did the right thing." Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com


State College NAACP President Lorraine Jones calls for a moment of silence to remember the death of Antwon Rose, who was shot and killed by police in East Pittsburgh a year ago. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com


Will Price speaks about the legacy of his grandmother, the late Thelma Price, who was a beloved Penn State administrator and  legendary local civil rights advocate. "She didn't just tell you she loved you," Price said. "She showed it day in and day out." Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com


Charles Dumas, a longtime civil rights activist and Penn State emeritus professor of theatre, reads an original piece he wrote for the Juneteenth celebration focused on the history of people taking action for racial justice. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com


Penn State professor Errol Henderson, who last year authored the op-ed "Being Black at Penn State," spoke about racism at the university and the fatal police shooting of Osaze Osagie in State College before praising those who have taken a stand against racial injustice. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com 


Musician Eric Ian Farmer performs a song during the Juneteenth celebration. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com


A crowd gathered at the MLK Plaza on South Fraser Street for State College's first Juneteenth celebration. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.comPhoto by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com


Chidere Oputa, a rising senior at State College Area High School reads an original poem during the Juneteenth celebration. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com

See more photos in the gallery below.

Watch the celebration in it entirety in the video stream by State College NAACP & Strategies for Justice

Photo Gallery - Juneteenth in State College



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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