Music, dance, poetry and the first-ever Juneteenth parade marked the freedom...

Music, dance, poetry and the first-ever Juneteenth parade marked the freedom holiday Saturday in Greenport.

  Credit: Randee Daddona

Russell Smith, of Mattituck, flashed a big smile as he made his way down Main Street in Greenport Saturday, carrying a sign with the words “Let Freedom Ring” drawn in bold letters.

Smith, 57, was among the more than 200 people marching in the village’s first-ever parade celebrating Juneteenth, a holiday marking the end of slavery in the United States.

“It’s a long time coming. It’s awesome to see everyone come together, different ethnic backgrounds, gay, straight,” he said. “This is big.”

Propelled by the rhythm of African djembe drums and freedom chants, the parade included local musicians and dance troupes, students and more than a dozen community organizations. The Pan-African flag was draped over vehicles and many carried Juneteenth flags symbolizing a new horizon for Black Americans.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers marched on Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved people of their freedom, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. 

Saturday’s celebration began with a prayer service at Clinton Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Greenport, which organized the event with Southold Town's Anti-Bias Task Force and local chapter of Coming to the Table, a national anti-racism group. The festivities also featured a reading of General Order No. 3, the directive that freed slaves in Texas.

“Friends and neighbors near and far are here to celebrate, to remember, to reflect on what freedom meant to those 250,000 people who were finally declared free,” the Rev. Natalie Wimberly, from the church, said. “Not only are we here to celebrate, but we’re here to say never again will the sin of slavery be enforced upon people.”

Celebrations for Juneteenth in Greenport began in 2022, when the Anti-Bias Task Force organized a small ceremony at Clinton Memorial church. Last year, it grew to a larger event with poetry, music and dancing at the church. Juneteenth has been federally recognized as a holiday since 2021.

Some had celebrated the holiday before. Brian Mealy, the Town of Southold’s first Black councilman, elected in 2021, said his mother taught him the significance of Juneteenth as a child. He was overcome with emotion at seeing a large, communitywide display for the first time and said it made him feel “happy and proud” of Greenport. About 8.1% of the village’s 2,583 residents are Black, according to 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data.

“This is an instance where more people became free, more people achieved liberty,” Mealy said. “That ideal is what America is founded on, and we’re still not there.”

Others, like Faith Welch, 16, of Greenport, are still learning about the holiday and its history. 

She began to understand its significance this year after researching the local history of slavery with classmates at Greenport High School. She said she was “astonished” to discover that slavery existed on Long Island. “It was kind of hidden,” she said.

Welch said all Americans should celebrate Juneteenth. “We all celebrate the Fourth of July, but that’s not everyone’s freedom. African Americans weren’t freed until later on,” she said.

The festivities continued with performances, a picnic and yoga in Mitchell Park and screening of the 2022 documentary “Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom,” and a panel discussion at the North Fork Arts Center.

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday / A.J. Singh

A taste of summer on Long Island NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer. 

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday / A.J. Singh

A taste of summer on Long Island NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer. 

Latest Videos

YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED

FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.