Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Come to Juneteenth!

Tomorrow, June 19th, is the day that has been called Juneteenth for more than 140 years. It's the oldest known commemoration of the end of slavery in the US. Why that day? On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers finally arrived in Galveston, TX and told the surprised residents that the war had been over more than 2 months and that the Emancipation Proclamation had ended slavery 2 and a half years earlier.

The anniversary of that day has been celebrated by the descendants of those slaves, some of them making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston for it, and by other descendants of slaves all over the US. Like Independence Day, most of the celebrations are marked with picnics, barbeques and baseball games, but the history of the day, of the events leading up to Emancipation, plus education and achievement, have always been stressed as well.

So maybe you're asking why more than, say, a third of Norristown's population should care anything about Juneteenth?

Thing is, in a way, Juneteenth kicks off all of our summer cultural observances. We'll have Italian, Irish and Mexican celebrations before the summer's over, and probably a few others. The more we learn about each others' heritages, the more likely we are to get along. And getting along means we can build Norristown up together without the obstacle of cultural divisiveness.

I might be Italian Catholic, but I go to Jewish seders to join friends in celebrating an end to slavery in Egypt. Why shouldn't I go to Juneteenth to celebrate an end to slavery in my own country?

The Centre Theater has been holding an annual Juneteenth commemoration for years. This year, for the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation, the Iron Age Theater Company will present an evening of music, poetry, readings and personalities from history. You'll probably recognize some of the names of the cast: Richard Bradford, Maurice Tucker, Buck Jones, Seidah Hill Durante, Michael Way, Tiffany Joyner, Walter DeShields, Richard Rogers, Alaina Nelson and Gary Giles. (Come on, wouldn't you go just to see Buck Jones?)

Best of all the event is FREE. That's right. FREE LIVE THEATER, Thursday night at 7 pm at the Centre Theater. Reservation are strongly suggested, though. Reserve tickets by emailing or call 610-279-1013.

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