Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Juneteenth Honors Culture, Legacies

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Juneteenth Honors Culture, Legacies

Article excerpt

Bergen and Passaic county residents celebrated African-American culture Saturday with everything from marching bands and hip-hop drill teams to a special remembrance of a slain civil rights hero.

Both Paterson and Englewood held parades -- in the latter case as part of a weekend-long Juneteenth festival in Depot Square. People there rode carnival rides and bought items ranging from Masai bead and coconut earrings to barbecue and Salvadoran food.

A 40-member drill and drum squad called Divas & Gents from Franklin Township in Somerset County was among the groups featured in the Englewood parade. Afterward, the group -- its members dressed in military camouflage -- lounged beneath the shade of a tree while squad leader Tony James reflected on the meaning of the day.

Juneteenth marks the anniversary of June 19, 1865, the day that a group of slaves in Texas belatedly learned from Union troops that the Civil War had ended and that they were freed.

"I love history," said James, whose group marches to a combination military/hip-hop beat. "It reminds you of your heritage, no matter what your history is."

Along the midway, members of the Bergen County NAACP worked a booth aimed at attracting new members.

Besides Juneteenth, the group handed out literature reminding people of a tragic anniversary. Fifty years ago last week, the NAACP's first field officer, Medgar Evers, was shot to death while combating segregation in Mississippi.

"He stood out and stood alone in the midst of Mississippi chaos," recalled Nathaniel Briggs, a former chapter president. "But his work ultimately led to [the election of] President Obama."

'I'm glad it's back'

Meanwhile, in Paterson, the street named after slain civil- rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. had red, green and black stripes painted down the middle as the Black Heritage parade marched while hundreds of people cheered. …

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