The bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday is a salve for a wounded nation and a balm for the national soul. It seeks to codify into law what has already come to pass in many places, including Irvington, where Juneteenth celebrations have recently been embraced. Juneteenth, a celebration of African American Arts and Culture, was brand new to the village of Irvington last year, as well as to many of us at church, myself included. As a fledgling event, organized on very short notice by Kelli Scott and sponsored by St. Barnabas, it more than fulfilled its promise and purpose. It struck a chord with the Village Trustees, who made it an annual celebration in the village; and it rang true for the vestry, for our young people and for members of our congregation in search of a salve and balm at a time of national protest, trauma and loss.
The organization and sponsorship of the Second Annual Juneteenth Celebration has been embraced by a broad constituency, including the Juneteenth Planning Committee, the PTSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Irvington Activists, Commemorate, Historic Hudson Valley, ArtsWestchester and again by our own church. It promises to be a fantastic event with live music by Nkumu Katalay and the “Life Long Project” Band, African dancers, Afro-Caribbean food trucks, artisans and their various wares. The event will also include a moderated panel discussion about the legacies of slavery, speeches by state and local elected officials, an invocation by yours truly and a talk by award-winning, Yonkers-based artist Vinnie Bagwell.
I look forward to seeing many of you there as we lend our spiritual and practical support to this life-giving commemorative celebration. May it be but a foretaste of the longed-for hope and commonly held desire for racial equity and justice for all.
Onward in the Spirit,
Gareth Evans serves as the rector of St. Barnabas. He is an inspirational leader who brings significant pastoral experience, a depth of reverence in worship, and a relatable preaching style.