Juneteenth 2023: Angelia Edwards Shares Message of Love at History City of Vineland Ceremony


Juneteenth flag is raised at the City of Vineland Juneteenth celebration at City Hall on June 19, 2023. Photo by Meredith Winner, Mer-Made Photography

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

VINELAND — Themes of unity and love prevailed during a historic day at Vineland’s City Hall as the city celebrated the national holiday of Juneteenth for the first time, complete with a ceremonial flag raising on Monday, June 19.

The Juneteenth Commemoration and Flag Raising Ceremony was held under a clear, sunny sky on the steps of City Hall as Greater Vineland NAACP President Angelia Edwards gave the keynote address. Vineland Mayor Anthony Fanucci celebrated the event with a proclamation from the city while New Jersey State Sen. Mike Testa delivered comments on the day.

Vineland City Council President Dr. Elizabeth Arthur, herself a history maker as the first African American woman to hold that position, made statements as well.

Ahmed Graves-El, known The Lung from KNomad Nation, gave a brief history of African American achievements in the United States along with an original Hip Hop poem.

Edwards, a longtime member of the Bridgeton School Board of Education and the Hall of Fame scholastic basketball player there, touched on a variety of subjects during her speech, including the importance of love in celebrating Juneteenth, the negative impact that racism still carries in society and for people to vote for individuals who serve their interest instead of party affiliation.

She addressed the long-lasting effects of racism, like when her father was told at a restaurant in Virginia while trying to treat her mother to a breakfast that he had to use the back entrance instead of the front door to be served in the 1960s.

Edwards also described a recent incident at a local restaurant, which she did not name, where an employee used the N-word against a customer, yet the owners never apologized and as far as she knows never disciplined the employee, highlighting the ongoing challenges facing such prejudice.

In pointing out the significance of bridging racial divides, Edward praised Fanucci for appointing Demetrica Todd-Ruiz to become the first African American female municipal judge in Vineland. She was recently elevated to serve as a Cumberland County Superior Court judge, becoming the first Black woman to serve in that position as well.

She said celebrating Juneteenth was an opportunity to break down those walls and reflect on where the country has come from and the work that still needs to be done.

Testa sounded a similar theme in his comments, acknowledging the past discrimination, but recognizing the greatness of the United States of having the ability to correct its course so that all people can take advantage of the gifts it has to offer.

Rev. Basil Watson, of the Wesleyan Church of Vineland, delivered the opening prayer while Rhuby Mozelle gave a rousing rendition of the National Anthem that was met with extended applause. Special thanks were given to organizer Sheena Santiago with the City of Vineland for her diligence and hard work in making the historic program a success.

The Vineland Villagers gave a well-received performance of “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Dioanna Gayle, who emceed the Cherry Hill Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday, led the attendees and guests in a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as the Juneteenth flag was raised.

Pastor Ralph Graves, of Cornerstone Community Church, stepped in to give a closing prayer after he and his family attended the event as audience members.

Guests included Vineland council members David Acosta, Paul Spinelli and Albert Vargas; Vineland Police Director Edwin Alicea; Cumberland County Commissioner John Capizola; Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae; Vineland Police Chief Pedro Casiano and staff.

Other guests included Vineland Planning Board member Darwin Cooper Jr. and local television personality and realtor Millie Sanchez.

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