Richard Liebson, email@example.com:03 a.m. EDT June 10, 2016
Juneteenth celebration in White Plains
WHITE PLAINS – It’s said that if you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it. Heather Miller fits the bill. Besides her job as executive director of the Thomas H. Slater Community Center, Miller is past president of the White Plains Rotary, a member of the White Plains Community Action Program advisory board, a board member of Access Westchester, co-founder of the Haitian Resource Center, a volunteer for countless other organizations and chairwoman of the White Plains Juneteenth Heritage Committee. On Saturday, the city hosts the 12th annual Juneteenth Parade and cultural festival, observing and celebrating the end of the slavery in the United States. The White Plains committee has organized the parade and festival for more than a decade. Miller spoke to The Journal News/Lohud about this year’s event.
Q: What can people expect at this year’s parade?
A: There will be bands, sororities, floats, church groups, a number of other organizations. It should be colorful and a lot of fun. The parade will start at 11 a.m. at Mamaroneck Avenue and Old Mamaroneck Road, proceed up Mamraroneck Avenue and end on Main Street, near the City Center.
Q: The Grand Marshal this year is the Ministers Fellowship Council of White Plains and Vicinity, which represents a number of local black churches. Why were they chosen?
A: As soon as they were brought up as a possibility, it was a pretty easy decision. The Council has been active in White Plains since the 1960s. They’ve always been strong supporters of the Juneteenth Committee, and their work and accomplishments on behalf of the people of White Plains speaks for itself.
Q: Tell us a little about the festival.
A: The festival runs from noon to 5 p.m. on Court Street between Martine and Main, in the same area where they hold the Farmer’s Market. There will be a children’s section with face painting, a science booth, story telling and a lot of other things for the kids. For the grownups, there are 40 vendors selling arts and crafts, food, clothing and other items. There will also be entertainment from a number of different musical groups.
Q: How much work goes into preparing for Saturday’s celebration?
A: It takes a year to organize. When we’re finished with this event, we start planning for the next one. It’s not just the parade and festival. There’s a lot of fundraising that has to be done — that’s really the most difficult thing. We have a lot of activities associated with the committee. For example, this year we brought a group to see the movie, “Race” and afterward had a panel discussion. Last year, we did the same thing with the movie “Selma.” We also sponsored a walk along the Bronx River. So we stay pretty busy throughout the year. Fortunately, we have a great group of volunteers who serve on our various committees. They’re dedicated and they work hard. That’s what makes the whole thing successful.
Q; What’s the significance of Juneteenth? Why is it important that it be observed?
A: Imagine — June 19, 1865 — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and some of those who had been enslaved were just finding out that they were free. So its a celebration of freedom. And we’re celebrating it in the ways that they did back then. When they found out they were free they were dancing in the streets. It was a parade and celebration, and we’re following in that tradition.