The Cortland County Community of Color (C4) network will hold Cortland County’s third annual Juneteenth Celebration marking the end of slavery in America on Saturday, June 17.
C4 — a collaborative initiative between SUNY Cortland and Tompkins Cortland Community College — will host the official recognition of Black American emancipation from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Courthouse Park on Church Street in downtown Cortland.
"Juneteenth became a national holiday in 2021, but Black Americans have celebrated Juneteenth from day one,” said Lorraine Lopez-Janove, SUNY Cortland’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. “C4 made the decision to open it up and bring awareness of Juneteenth to the Cortland community, explain why we celebrate it, and have lots of fun in the process.”
The event is free and open to the public. The Juneteenth Celebration will feature speakers, food, music, lawn games and giveaways.
The presidents of both SUNY Cortland and TC3 — Erik J. Bitterbaum and Amy Kremenek, respectively — will offer remarks.
Keynote speaker for the event will be Tracy McPherson Hudson ’89, M ’93, Ed.D., an assistant professor of physical education who joined SUNY Cortland in 2021 as a SUNY Diversity Fellow.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in physical education, Hudson remained to receive her master’s degree in health education. Hudson has two additional master’s degrees and holds an Ed.D. in accountability and leadership from St. John’s University in New York. A certified trainer in racial healing, her research has focused on creating a culture of care for Black students. She previously was employed for almost 20 years on Long Island in secondary schools as an award-winning physical education teacher, health educator and school principal.
Although most area college students are gone, in the two prior celebrations faculty, staff and community members of diverse backgrounds gathered and enjoyed the festivities, Lopez-Janove noted.
“I went before the Cortland City Council about getting Juneteenth as a line item in next year’s budget and told them that I have two goals,” she said. “One is to educate them on Juneteenth if they’re not already. The other one is we want the city council members to join us, to bring about this event that’s benefiting the community.”
Juneteenth, the day of freedom for once enslaved African Americans, is celebrated on the 19th of June instead of Sept. 22, the calendar day when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The reason is because June 19, 1865 — two years later — was the day the Union Army marched into Galveston, Texas, and enforced the late President Lincoln’s emancipation. Since then, celebrations in Galveston have been among the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the world.
“On June 19th, we reflect on and celebrate the freedom and independence of African Americans in America and around the world,” said Lopez-Janove.
“This day is celebrated nationwide as a day of hope, remembrance and motivation,” she said.
SUNY Cortland Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement Rich Coyne ’07 connected C4 with the event’s newest sponsor, the Cortland Community Foundation.
Lopez-Janove said C4 offers special thanks to the foundation, the City of Cortland, the Cortland Police Department for their continued support to make it happen this year.