This Saturday, the Essex community will stage its first-ever Juneteenth celebration.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the pavilion of the Brownell Library, community members will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of Juneteenth activities.
"It's essentially the celebration of the contributions of African Americans in the life of the United States as we know it," Owiso Makuku, Essex's interim community development director, said. "People from the African continent who were brought here in chains, and their descendants, have shaped our culture in profound and wonderful ways."
The event is sponsored by V.I.E.W. (Voices for Inclusion in Essex & Westford) and the Essex Racial Justice Task Force.
"It should be a very fun, interactive event. Everyone's invited to participate," Makuku said.
Here's what else you need to know.
1. The Juneteenth celebration is family-friendly, with many activities targeted for children.
Kids will be able to make friendship bracelets using the pan-African colors of yellow, green, black and red. A construction paper craft will also give kids the opportunity to create their own version of kembe cloth, a geographic design frequently used in African textiles.
Megan Allison, youth librarian at Brownell Library, will also help kids make their own buttons commemorating the 2021 celebration in Essex.
2. Adults and teens can participate in a re-aloud of quotes and poems.
A series of speakers will read aloud poems written by African Americans. A pile of index cards at the event will also display quotes by prominent African Americans.
"People can take these index cards, walk up to the microphone and be part of the celebration," Makuku said.
3. Light refreshments will be served.
MARK BBQ is donating a tray of pork mac and cheese for the event and strawberry lemonade will be on site. Makuku said strawberry lemonade and soda is a staple of Texas' Juneteenth celebrations. A number of community members are also contributing homemade cookies.
4. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were informed of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth has been celebrated in Texas since June 19, 1866 and, in 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday.
On Thursday, President Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday, marking the day as the national commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. Biden said he counted signing the declaration of the greatest honors he will have as president, according to the New York Times.