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  • Pocono Record

    Juneteenth Freedom Festival to bring music, dancing, more to Courthouse Square

    By Kathryne Rubright, Pocono Record,


    The 22nd annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival returns to downtown Stroudsburg this Saturday with music, dancing, scholarships and more.

    The festival, hosted by the African-American Network in collaboration with the Sherman Theater, runs from 2 to 6:30 p.m. in Courthouse Square.

    Being able to have the crowd size that Courthouse Square allows “was the dream,” said event coordinator Cleo Jarvis, who was also involved with the festival when it was held at Lehman Township Community Park and East Stroudsburg University.

    “Courthouse Square was the best move for us,” she said, adding that fellow Rotarian Rich Berkowitz, executive director of the Sherman Theater, came on board to assist with the stage and equipment when the festival moved there in 2019.

    Juneteenth celebrates the date – June 19, 1865 – that U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger announced in Galveston that enslaved people in Texas were free. It became a federal holiday in 2021.

    Jarvis said she was “on the fence” about it becoming a national holiday, because “then it starts becoming a moneymaking thing for other people.”

    Maintaining the authenticity and tradition of the event is important, she said.

    “People need to know that it’s a celebration of freedom, and everybody can participate in celebrating freedom,” Jarvis said. “Even though it’s African Americans celebrating their own freedom. But everybody can celebrate freedom together.”

    There will be an opening ceremony featuring multiple generations, Jarvis said. “Culturally, it’s important for us to bridge the gap. And the elder passes the baton to the youth.”

    Faith International Church will sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during the ceremony.

    As Sunday is Father’s Day, the festival also features a tribute to fathers, who will receive roses and see a performance from R1:16, the male dance group of Faith International Church.

    Ms. and Mr. Juneteenth Scholarships will be given.

    Also scheduled to participate are GynesisRadio Showcase, Elevé Dance Theater, Pocono Self Defense with a martial arts demonstration, Trademarked Fitness Studio with a Zumba demonstration, the Karar dance team from Greater Shiloh Church and Rashaad “RayRay Jams” Taylor with a Michael Jackson tribute, among others.

    In a special “Decades of Gratitude” awards ceremony, some of the festival’s longest supporters will get recognition.

    At community events “there should be a little something for everybody,” Jarvis said.

    Kathryne Rubright is the managing editor of the Pocono Record and the Tri-County Independent. Reach her

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