Norwich Juneteenth celebration Saturday to focus on family fun

Norwich — The 27th annual Juneteenth celebration hosted by the Norwich branch of the NAACP Saturday comes at a time when racially charged incidents in several cities across the nation have dominated the news, but organizers here say they plan to keep the event lighthearted and celebratory.

Juneteenth commemorates events on June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed by President Abraham Lincoln in the Emancipation Proclamation issued Jan. 1, 1863.

Norwich’s celebration will be held from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Howard T. Brown Memorial Park and will feature craft and food vendors, entertainment, children’s games, and demonstrations by local groups, music and the presentation of the annual Dennis Jenkins Memorial Award.

The Dennis Jenkins Memorial Award will be presented to Uncas School Principal Jason Foster for his commitment to the success of the neighborhood school with many students walking to school from surrounding streets and the nearby public housing complex.

Juneteenth comes this year after several months of racial tensions and violence in Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., Cleveland and Texas following incidents involving allegations that white police officers used excessive force against black suspects.

Daniels said she does not expect Juneteenth to take on a more serious tone this year in response to national news reports on the accusations and violations elsewhere.

“We’re hoping to keep it light,” Daniels said. “We haven’t had the issues here. We spend a lot of time talking to each other. We have to keep those lines of communication open.”

In Norwich, the NAACP branch has tried to keep good relations and open communications with local police and city leaders, Norwich NAACP President Jacqueline Owens said.

Norwich police often participate in Juneteenth activities, and this year the city’s Diversity Committee will have a booth at the event.

Norwich Police Chief Louis Fusaro echoed those sentiments and said police and the NAACP hosted two local forums on police relations in the wake of the Ferguson riots.

“It’s been a good relationship for a long time, and we do everything we can to foster it,” Fusaro said.

Owens emphasized that Juneteenth is free and open to everyone. “It’s not a fundraiser,” she said. “We try to keep it just a celebration for people to come and enjoy themselves.”

c.bessette@theday.com

Twitter: @Bessettetheday

UBox:

27th annual Norwich Juneteenth celebration.

Saturday, June 20, noon to 6 p.m.

Howard T. Brown Memorial Park, Chelsea Harbor Drive at Norwich Harbor.

Vendors, children’s activities, entertainment and demonstrations, music.

Free admission.

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