Juneteenth Celebration blends arts, history and spirit at Hyde Center

The Hyde Center was alive with music, food and jubilation on Saturday, as the city celebrated Juneteenth—the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in America—with a festival organized by Families Organizing for Racial Justice (FORJ).

Julie Robinson, a Newton resident and a member of FORJ, said she felt called to help out at the event.

“If they’re celebrating this in Newton and I am a black resident, I should volunteer,” Robinson said.

The vendors lining the field were mostly local black-owned businesses, but a few Newton community groups like Newton for Everyone set up shop as well.

Two food trucks parked on Lincoln Street, selling Creole and Jamaican cuisine.

Tents cover vendors and their vibrant merchandise along the edges of the Hyde Community Center field. Photo by Genevieve Morrison

Delmeshia Haynes sold African headwraps at one booth. Her business, House of Tafari, aims to preserve African culture through its merchandise and its Wrapshop, an outreach program that teaches local youth how to wear the traditional clothing.

She said that working at the Juneteenth event was meaningful.

“Technically we’re working, but it’s not labor,” Haynes said. “We’re doing this by choice to bridge cultural gaps and to really get conversations started.”

Brandon Crowley, the rector of Myrtle Baptist Church spoke on the legacy of slavery and how his church celebrates community today.

“Today, we acknowledge the fact that the sacredness of blackness still thrives,” Crowley said. “It is still alive.”

The Myrtle Baptist Church choir sang an energetic set after its rector’s speech, just one of several performances, readings and speeches that took the Hyde Center bandstand Saturday.

Customers order food at Gourmet Kreyol, one of the food trucks that catered the event. Photo by Genevieve Morrison