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Roxbury readies for Juneteenth and Roxbury Pride celebrations

Posted by Patrick Rosso  June 13, 2013 10:39 AM

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As in years past, families and friends will fill Franklin Park on Saturday for the annual Roxbury Pride/Juneteenth Celebration.

Now in its 17th year, the event offers residents and those who have left the neighborhood a chance to reconnect, share family happenings, and enjoy some BBQ on a summer day.

“When we first started this it seemed like everyone came together only when there was a death or a wedding,” said Evelyn Thorpe, chairperson of the event.

Thorpe has helped organize it since it first started in 1997 and said it’s just a way to show a little neighborhood pride and have some fun.

“There really wasn’t a pride day for Roxbury or the African American community,” said Thorpe. “We thought it might be a nice event for the community and just day to come together and enjoy one another.”

Thousands turn out every year, but Thorpe said the event is casual. There will be a DJ, but there are no political booths or sales people. Most just bring their own grill, plenty of cool beverages, and set up camp for the day.

“It’s just a good time and a chance to see old friends,” said Thorpe.

Saturday’s event will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Shattuck Grove section of Franklin Park. More information can be found on the group’s website.

In addition to celebrating Roxbury and the surrounding neighborhoods, the day also commemorates Juneteenth. Held officially on June 19, the day recognizes when the last people held as slaves in the United States learned they were free in 1865.

It was made official in Massachusetts in 2007 when Governor Deval Patrick signed a proclamation at that year’s Roxbury Pride/Juneteenth Celebration.

In addition to Saturday’s event, the National Center of Afro-American Artists and the Boston Juneteenth Committee will hold their own Juneteenth event.

On Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. the center, located at 300 Walnut Ave. in Roxbury, will host a slew of programs from historical and artistic presentations to music, food, and youth activities.

“We got involved in this because we wanted to do something that was thoughtful and thought provoking,” said Barry Gaither, executive director of the center. “We want to provide a historical frame, but interpret it for our contemporary experience.”

Professor Charles Ogletree of Harvard University will deliver the Emancipation address and is expected to touch on a number of topics in addition to the history and importance of the day.

More information can be found on the National Center of Afro-American Artists' website.

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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