(WEST CHESTER, PA – May 10, 2023): On June 19th, 1865, the last group of enslaved Black Americans were freed by the Union in Galveston, Texas. That event became the oldest holiday in the US known today as Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the US. The enslaved people of Galveston did not find out about their freedom two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and two months after the end of the Civil War.
Citizens of West Chester wanted a space to come together and commemorate this holiday that is too often misunderstood and overlooked. The West Chester Juneteenth Planning Council was established to give West Chester a space to celebrate and to educate others about Juneteenth and how Black History is intertwined within the history of West Chester Borough and greater Chester County.
The West Chester Juneteenth Planning Partners have worked diligently, creating an exciting and robust line-up of events including family activities, history tours, art and culture events, and a Juneteenth Freedom Festival! All activities will be focused on the central theme of journeying towards freedom. The events are scheduled to take place from June 14th – June 19th, 2023.
This week-long celebration kicks off at the Chester County Art Association featuring an African American Quilt display, reception, and discussion. These quilts will be on display at the Chester County Art Association from June 15th – 19th. Carol Weaver, a West Chester Juneteenth Planning Council Partner, and co-founder of Seba Enrichment Academy, said that “quilts played a strategic role during the “Underground Railroad” and the enslaved community during journey towards freedom”.
June 15th to June 18th, will feature African American Walking Tours. These guided walks will give insight to West Chester’s ties to the Underground Railroad and the Black community’s history in the East End, Uptown, and West Chester Education.
Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste, a member of the Juneteenth Planning Council Partners, touched on the importance of these walking tours. “West Chester is replete with people and places involved in the foundation building of our country. Our early settlers included many who were involved with the Underground Railroad and providing opportunities for former slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation. The Juneteenth celebration invites us all to celebrate this pivotal period in our country’s history”.
Family friendly events will take place throughout the week and will close on June 19th with the West Chester NAACP Flag recognition ceremony featuring a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, a poetry and art contest, and the Juneteenth Freedom Festival at the Charles A. Melton Arts & Education Center.
For a full list of Juneteenth events, please visit the Cultural Alliance of Chester County website. https://www.culturechesco.org/services-7
The Chester County Community Foundation wants to thank all our Juneteenth Planning Council Partners for their hard work and dedication to commemorating such an important holiday. They are listed below:
Honorable Lillian L. DeBaptiste – West Chester Borough Mayor
Mary Gazdik – Chester County Library & District Center
Alice Hammond – West Chester NAACP
Conor Hepp – Chester County History Center
Pachy Banks-Cabral – Chester County History Center
Fredda Maddox, Esq. – Chester County Sherriff
Timmy Nelson – Community Volunteer
Denice Velez – West Chester University Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
Renee Washington – Charles A. Melton Center
Carol Weaver – Seba Enrichment Academy
Reginald Weaver – MRW Business Solutions
Karen Simmons – Chester County Community Foundation
Lilly Mercado – Chester County Community Foundation
All are invited to attend. For more details about West Chester Juneteenth or the Chester County Community Foundation’s philanthropic programs, call (610) 696-8211 or visit www.chescocf.org.
About the Chester County Community Foundation
Headquartered in West Chester’s Lincoln Building, the Chester County Community Foundation connects people who care with causes that matter so their legacy philanthropy makes a difference now and forever. The Community Foundation holds nearly $100 million in trust and annually awards $6+ million in grants and scholarships. To learn more about the Community Foundation, visit www.chescocf.org.