CAPITOL HEIGHTS – Residents assembled made their way to Walker Mill Regional Park Saturday as Prince George’s County hosted its eighth annual Juneteenth Celebration.
According to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), the event is supposed help make people more aware of the African American history located right here in the county.
Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States and the announcement of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln.
Juneteenth began as a way for the elders to catch the interest of young people, said Gina Vaughan, event coordinator. This year’s event included a step team performance by an organization called the Taratibu Youth Association that the audience and young people were enthused about.
“Typically at a Juneteenth event, there are vendors, performances, food, games, oral history being performed, African American literary works being performed, and the elders pass on their experiences to the next generations,” Vaughan said.
Singer and harp player Taylor Thomas originally made her television debut on America’s Got Talent, and was dubbed a crowd favorite by many onlookers at the event. Thomas covered familiar songs such as “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown and “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, just to name a few.
Other performers included the Princess Mhoon Dance Institute, Trinidad & Tobago Steel Orchestra, gospel singer Stephen Hurd, and musical guest Faycez You Know.
“Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Montaperto and her staff from the Mount Calvert Historical and Archaeological Park brought a photograph presentation that displayed pictures of the Mount Calvert tobacco plantation house from 1790 that is located in Prince George’s County,” says Vaughan.
At the event, several members of the Uhuru Quilter Guild showcased quilts and discussed facts about the history of Juneteenth. Carol Williams founded the guild, a community organization that teaches visitors how to quilt and the importance of this skill in African American culture.
“Our enslaved ancestors were the ones who did the spinning and weaving,” said Williams. “The history is in the threads.”
“People admire quilts because it is a part of our culture and heritage, so it’s refreshing to be at this Juneteenth event seeing that people do care and are willing to learn about their background,” said Williams.
The quilts, Williams said, helped families reconnect with those they were ripped apart from.
“Quilts tell stories of events such as families who reconnected after the Civil War and even leaving advice for younger generations who were rising up,” said Williams.
Ronald Williams, author of 150 Facing Forward, showed his support at the event and created a play about Juneteenth that will debut at Northwestern High School.
Most people do not understand what Juneteenth is, he said, so the play will educate the audience. “It seems like a foreign idea to the community still,” Williams said. “People need to be reeducated about what happened during the emancipation. It’s good for people to see where we were and where we are now.”