Edtior’s Note: This is the third in a “Juneteenth Stories” series of stories Front Runner New Jersey is doing recognizing Juneteenth and how South Jerseyans are planning to celebrate it.
By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
VINELAND — When Jerry Young and partner Terry Gould decided to start a Juneteenth celebration in Cumberland County in 2014, few people had ever heard of the holiday.
Now as they start the sixth annual Tri City HOPE’s Still Fighting for Freedom event at Landis Park, 600 E. Park Avenue in Vineland Saturday at noon, the men are expected the biggest, and hopefully most influential event, ever.
“One day back in 2014, we were having a business luncheon and Juneteenth came up,” Young said of the time he and Gould started contemplating the idea of a local Juneteenth event. “We thought how nobody had ever talked about it around here.
“We decided to take a survey over a year’s time. In that, maybe one out of 10 people had ever heard of Juneteenth and even that one person didn’t know what it was all about. We decided on 2015, the 150th anniversary, we decided to put something together and that was in Bridgeton. Attendance was mostly neighborhood kids and pushed the education of it. Every year since, it has grown ever since,” he said.
The Juneteenth event will feature the usual standards for festivals of this magnitude — family games and entertainment, food, music and educational tributes. But the Vineland event has one unique twist: It will feature amateur boxing for the second year.
Still Fighting for Freedom
Young and Gould are both boxing trainers and coaches. They started Tri City Boxing, an initiative they run out of the Cumberland County Boys & Girls Club in Vineland. Gould and Young train youngsters in discipline and skill of boxing so they also show how to respect themselves and others outside the ring.
“The first time we decided to do it, we thought it would be a pretty good thing to do and it turned out to be a pretty good draw,” Young said. “Everyone on our committee asked us to do it again, so here we are. It was my partner’s idea to sue the headline “Still Fighting for Freedom.”
Young said Tri City HOPE (Helping Other People Everyday) was started in 2010 as a nonprofit to reach even more kids they couldn’t reach with boxing.
Helping Other People Everyday
“On my own, I was running two different organizations. One was Let Us HOPE and the other was just HOPE,” Young said. “We were talking about how we can get together because not everyone is cut out for boxing. We wanted to do things that would draw kids away from the streets and educate their parents to what’s going on in the world because there are a lot of parents who aren’t savvy and some don’t really have time.”
Young said with the violence and death involving young people in Cumberland County just this year with the recent deaths of people like Aaliyah Eubanks, 19, in Bridgeton and the mass shooting in Fairfield Township that killed three people all under the age of 30, Juneteenth is needed more than ever.
New Jersey will celebrate Juneteenth this year as a state holiday for the first time ever.
Need for Unity
“I definitely feel like we need to push unity and hope this is a stepping stone,” Young said. “Now with the attention really on it, we want to make it a 24-7 thing. We don’t want people coming out on [June 19] and then forgetting about it. There’s always work to be done.
“I hope people will walk away with a better idea of how Juneteenth came about. Also, we want them to walk away with the mindset that they will continue to work on what needs to be done for equality,” Young added.
Juneteenth, also know as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day in other parts of the country, celebrates the end of enslavement of African Americans in the United States. The date recognizes when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and proclaimed all slaves free on June 19, 1865 at the end of the Civil War and years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
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