White Plains Celebrates Freedom with Juneteenth Gala and Festival, By April McClemmy

Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, White Plains Mayor Tom Roach and Councilman Benjamin Boykin honor Chef Jefferson Evans of the Culinary Institute of America. AJ Simpkins Photo.

Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, White Plains Mayor Tom Roach and Councilman Benjamin Boykin honor Chef Jefferson Evans of the Culinary Institute of America. AJ Simpkins Photo.

The White Plains Juneteenth Heritage Committee had the opportunity this year to share the cultural significance of Juneteenth with the larger community. Under the notable leadership of Chairman Bernie Thombs, The White Plains First Annual Juneteenth Awards Gala and 9th Annual Heritage Festival allowed the whole community to come together and celebrate.  Juneteenth’s theme this year was “Drums of Freedom”- Always Faithful, and both events were characterized by the Afrocentric elements of the drums and the collective spirit.

On June 6th, it was most evident at the Juneteenth Gala that the honorees Mack L. Carter, former White Plains Mayor Joseph M. Delfino, and Earl Graves Sr., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Westchester Alumnae Chapter, were cherished and admired for their distinguished achievements. Each took home awards they accepted with humility and gratitude.

Mayor Thomas Roach cordially honored all the awardees with a special day in their honor in White Plains. Frank Williams, Jr., Executive Director of the White Plains Youth Bureau was the Master of Ceremonies and guided the evening with dignified poise and grace that allowed all to enjoy the speeches, networking, food and dancing.

Assemblyman, David Buchwald was in attendance and spoke highly of the meaning of “freedom” for Juneteenth.

The 9th Annual Heritage Festival came after a day of uncertain weather.  However, on June 8th it was a glorious day for family, food, fun and most of all festivities.

Under the supervision of Wayne D. Bass, Commissioner of Recreation & Parks who also serves on the Juneteenth Committee, it was a true success. Wayne worked with committee member Joseph Boykin, who handled all the entertainment for the festival. Boykin delivered a truly cultural experience with excellent music, poetry, fashion and African dance.

To get on spiritual ground, the day started with a prayer with drums. The festival was full of first-rate vendors who came out to support Juneteenth, while selling/presenting their unique products or services.

Mayor Roach, Assemblyman David Buchwald, and County Executive Rob Astorino showed their support of Juneteenth at the festival and made brief speeches encouraging everyone to enjoy the day.

Jefferson Evans the first African-American graduate of Culinary Institute of America, class of 1947 was honored. Also, there was an Essay Competition for college bound White Plains students. The students had to write about the movie “42, The Jackie Robinson Story.” They described the importance of Jackie Robinson playing professional baseball at a time when segregation and Jim Crow made it almost impossible for others to participate on Major League teams.

Winners of the essay competition. AJ Simpkins Photo.

Winners of the essay competition. AJ Simpkins Photo.

The essay had to be 750 to 1000 words long and explore the role Jackie Robinson played in helping to integrate professional baseball. The impact on civil rights and the culture of sports in 2013 was focused on as well.  The winners were: First Place, Taylor Clay; Second Place, Dorshelle Guillaume; and Third Place tie, Chelsea Bristow and Avia Hawkins.

Juneteenth gave honorable mention to Milinda Alcy and  Samule Emillie for participating in the  competition. The Tyler Perry Foundation generously donated two new laptops to the first and second place winners.  Target partnered with Juneteenth and gave gift cards for the students’ college journey. Major League Baseball donated two autographed books by Sharon Robinson (Jackie Robinson’s daughter) to the first and second prizewinners.

The White Plains Juneteenth Heritage Committee would like to thank everyone supporting the Gala and Festival and invites everyone to a Gospel Concert on Saturday, October 12, 2013.

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