WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, OCEAN CITYJuneteenth celebrations spread across South Jersey on Saturday, June 15 ahead of the official June 19 date recognizing the holiday.

One of those in Washington Township showed just how large Juneteenth celebrations have become, drawing a large cross-section of people, while the event in Ocean City displayed a more personal, homestyle feel and level of comfort for the local community.

Thank you Inspira Health for sponsoring our Juneteenth coverage.

It was the fifth annual Juneteenth celebration for the Gloucester County NAACP, co-hosted by the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office. The NAACP gave out free Juneteenth t-shirts as well as ice cream during the day.

“We have over 70 vendors here; at last count it was 77,” said Gloucester County NAACP President Loretta Winters. “We have an amazing turnout. A lot of our legislators are out supporting us and Juneteenth, which means a lot.”

Winters was quick to point out the multicultural event gathering both businesses and visitors at the event, showing that Juneteenth should be celebrated beyond the African American community.

“Everyone should celebrate Juneteenth just like everyone should celebrate the Fourth of July,” Winters said. “It’s a celebration to remind us that all men and women are created equal and that our country started taking steps to actually live that.”

Laurie Burns, the mayor of Washington Township, could hardly contain her excitement looking over the large flow of vendors and attendees at the event. She said Washington Lake Park is the largest municipal park in the city with more than 330 acres.

“I think this brings a lot of our community out to the county,” Burns said. “I hope people walk away from here feeling that inclusivity is important and everybody should respect everybody. We hope this event continues to send that message.”

Outgoing Gloucester County Prosecutor Christine Hoffman said their relationship with the NAACP is “second to none” and they have Winters to thank for that and her hard work building a meaningful relationship with them.

“The Gloucester County NAACP is the best in the entire state, and it has been great to partner with them,” Hoffman said. “We are so fortunate to have Lorretta. Any time we know there is an issue, we know we can call on Loretta to work with us and we are pleased to have that kind of relationship with her.”

In Ocean City, organizer Dan Sinclair oversaw a smaller gathering at the 8th Street Recreation Center. The event was just as spirited with food, vendors and an outstanding performance by the band I Love Muzik.

“We would love to collaborate more with other organizations next year to grow this bigger,” said Sinclair, an Ocean City native who is now based out of Atlanta. “We want to reach out to more shore towns who we know don’t have a lot of things going on, to bring people out to the island.”

Sinclair brought Atlanta-based speakers with him, including grief counselor Dr. Cyntha Williams and psychologist Curtis Jasper.

Williams said she talked about trauma and generational barriers and what it takes to break those chains. Jasper said he is always looking for opportunities to talk about the holiday, the first holiday that celebrates the end of racial slavery in the United States, and what it means for Blacks to embrace it.

Richard Harris Henry Sr., an Ocean City native and U.S. Navy veteran living in San Diego said the park next to the community center was named after his uncle. Henry, who dressed in traditional tribal garb, said he came to the Juneteenth celebration to represent his heritage, including that of his great grandmother, a Delaware Lenape Blackfoot Native American.

“I’m here representing both sides, my American Indigenous ancestry and my African ancestry,” Henry said. “I worked hard all of my life and traveled to many countries and I’m here to enjoy Juneteenth with my family, relatives, and my friends.”

Below is a list of Juneteenth events happening throughout South Jersey:

Monday, June 17

  • Atlantic City: Stockton University Juneteenth Commemoration, Kesselman Hall, 1-5 p.m.

Tuesday, June 18

  • Evesham Township: Evesham Township Celebrates Juneteenth, Gibson House, 5-8 p.m.

Wednesday, June 19

  • Camden: Juneteenth Celebration, Roosevelt Park Plaza, 4:30-9 p.m.
  • Riverton: Palmyra Riverton Cinnaminson Juneteenth Celebration, Riverton Memorial Park, 4-8 p.m.
  • Mays Landing: Juneteenth Freedom Celebration, Gaskill Park, 3-8 p.m.
  • Voorhees: Juneteenth JewBilee, Congregation Beth El, 6-9 p.m.

Saturday, June 22

  • Cherry Hill: Juneteenth Parade and Festival, Croft Farms, 10 a.m.-5 p.m

Friday, June 28

  • Millville: Fourth Friday, Captain Buck Park, 5-8 p.m.

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