Local Cortland residents gathered downtown in Courthouse Park on Saturday, June 17, to celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday that officially recognizes Black American emancipation.
Cortland County’s third annual Juneteenth Celebration, marking the end of slavery in America, was again hosted by the Cortland County Community of Color (C4) network — a collaborative initiative between SUNY Cortland and Tompkins Cortland Community College.
Although most area college students are gone, many current and former faculty, staff and community members of diverse backgrounds and all ages gathered and enjoyed the festivities.
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, delivered the keynote speech.
Offering remarks were the presidents of both SUNY Cortland and TC3 — Erik J. Bitterbaum and Amy Kremenek, respectively — and Cortland City Mayor Scott Steve and New York State Senator Lea Webb of the 52nd District representing Broome, Cortland and Tompkins counties.
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 in the state.
“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 Cortland Community Foundation also sponsored this year’s event. Organizers thanked the City of Cortland and the Cortland Police Department for their continued support for this event.