PORTSMOUTH – Drumming, dancing and ancestor honor marked the final event in Juneteenth’s Black Heritage Trail celebration on Saturday,
Held at the African Burying Ground, “The Dance of the Ancestors: Ritual, Songs, Percussion and Movement” was shaped after a traditional ritual from Egungun from West Africa. It featured songs and dances by the Ifa priest, Chief Wande Abimbola, accompanied by the drums of the Akwaaba Ensemble, to invoke and honor ancestral spirits and offer healing.
“It’s a wonderful vacation and it’s about respect,” Abimbola said after attending the event. “Respect is the only thing missing in America. Respect for one another, for traditions and for our ancestors is an integral part of any culture. Respect is the mark of what we all need.”
Concerts, festivals, more:Seacoast celebrates Juneteenth with these events in 2021
“We are delighted with how the events of this weekend have unfolded,” said Jerrianne Boggis, executive director of the Black Heritage Trail in New Hampshire. “Juinth is a federal holiday now and it recognizes our story, which should no longer be hidden or not told. We are recognized now at a level that we should be in this country.”
Theo Martey, director of Akwaaba Ensemble, said he has enjoyed coming to the African Burial Ground for several years now.
“Now it’s just something we do,” he said with a smile. “We come here and help bring the community together.”
Boggis said the ground is sacred.
“We honor the few people buried here under this earth,” she said. “We recognize the 200 people buried around us. It is normal that this ceremony honors our ancestors. This is a community event, and the community has come to help us celebrate.
President Biden on Thursday signed a law making June, the day to commemorate the end of slavery in the Confederate States, a federal holiday.
“It will remain for me one of the greatest honors I will have as president,” Biden said.
This weekend was marked by celebrations across the country, recognizing the historic event.
Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery and focuses on the arrival of Union troops in Texas on June 19, 1865 with news of emancipation – although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued 2.5 years older early.
New Hampshire’s Black Heritage Trail opened its three-day celebration of Juneteenth Thursday with a virtual workshop titled “Finding Our Roots: Researching Black History and Genealogy.” On Friday, Music Hall collaborated with New Hampshire’s Black Heritage Trail to celebrate with a special “Feeling Good: N’Kenge Celebrates African American Sopranos” concert.
“I think Juneteenth, as a federal holiday, is long overdue,” said Monte Bohanan, director of communications and community engagement at Music Hall. “We loved our collaboration and it’s great to see the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail celebration continue to grow each year. It’s great that we can be together outdoors again.”
Exeter celebrates June 19
In Exeter, a June 10 celebration at Swasey Parkway happened coincidentally on a day when TEAM (Town Exeter Arts Music) was hosting one of its monthly events, a perfect recipe for a celebration, organizer Scott Ruffner said. .
“We have an event once a month on the third Saturday,” Ruffner said. “It’s perfect. We created TEAM five years ago because we saw a lack of diversity in the arts on the coast. Diversity was our goal then and it is today. It therefore seems natural to us to get involved. “
The day was a collaboration with Black Lives Matter Seacoast, the NH State Council of the Arts and the Racial Unity Team.
“I am delighted to see everyone coming together as a community,” said Julian Maduro, BLM Seacoast member.
Clifton West Jr., executive director of BLM Seacoast, said making Juneteenth a federal holiday was a start.
“It’s a recognition of black Americans,” West said. “It’s always symbolic. There are so many bills, including here in New Hampshire trying to prevent the education issues we face. Nonetheless, we are happy to be here today for celebrate the step in the right direction. “
The festival included music and dance performances, artists presenting their work and children’s activities at Swasey Parkway. Performers on the main stage included Najee Brown and the cast of her play “Stokely & Martin”, which was produced earlier this year at the Seacoast Repertory Theater, Akwaaba African Drum Ensemble and Tiffany Colston.
“It’s an important day, but it’s symbolic,” said Congressman Chris Pappas, who was a co-sponsor of the bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. “We are not free until everyone is free. We still have work to do, but we look forward to the kind of country we can become in the future.”
An information tent highlighted the Black Heritage Pocket Park. Located at the edge of Water Street in Swasey Parkway, the heritage park will highlight the often invisible aspects of Exeter’s black history.
“In 1790, Exeter had the highest percentage of free black citizens in the state,” Renee Allen said. “Among them, 10 Revolutionary War soldiers settled here. We are working on the creation of this pocket park to honor the legacy and let people know that it is here.”
– USA Today material was used in this story.