By Barrett Seaman and Hannah Lustyik-
It seems this year that more people in the Hudson River villages know what Juneteenth is. It may have helped that President Biden declared it a national holiday. It may also be that civil rights and voting rights are a more prominent part of the national conversation.
Certainly Juneteenth was more visible. Ardsley had a celebration in Pascone Park. Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry had a big event on Friday, a day before Juneteenth to allow employees to participate, but the early date brought no less enthusiasm. And Irvington had its second annual Juneteenth celebration, once again in the parking lot of the Main Street School, with a band, food and products reflecting African-American culture. Politicians were in evidence: Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, County Executive George Latimer, Congressman Mondaire Jones and several candidates on the ballot for Tuesday’s primary.
The Children’s Village event featured music, slam poetry and dance performances performed by both residents and staff on the campus of this refuge for foster and immigrant children.
The featured speakers were Lewis Tuchman and Luvaughn Brown, who participated in the Freedom Riders civil rights campaign of the early 1960s.
“Everyone asks me, ‘Are you inviting any VIPs?’” says Kerlyne Colin, Equity and Special Projects Coordinator at the Village. “I tell them, ‘Yeah. The eighty-six kids that live here.’”
The centerpiece of the Irvington celebration was a presentation of a conceptual rendering of a plaque honoring the enslaved African men, women and children who were the property of 17th and 18thcentury farmers and plantation owners in the Hudson Valley. When completed, the plaque, the work of sculpture artist Vinnie Bagwell, will be affixed to a brick wall near the current placement of the statue of Rip Van Winkle between Village Hall and the Main Street School.
The plaque, which will depict a young enslaved Black girl, will read in part: “These people deserve to have their humanity restored by being recognized, discussed and remembered. May this reckoning help heal the wounds of the past and sow the seeds for everlasting peace and brotherhood for all the people of our village, our nation and the world.”