Opinion: Organizer says Potsdam Juneteenth celebration picnic a success
Over 200 people attended the inaugural Potsdam Juneteenth Celebration, a socially-distanced picnic, to celebrate the 155th anniversary of the liberation of the last American slaves. We are grateful for such good-spirited attendance on a hot and muggy day!
People, ranging from toddlers to people in their 80’s, enjoyed the Juneteenth event on Saturday, June 20 at the Ives Park Gazebo on Potsdam’s riverfront.Participants attending the event learned about the history of the Black Independence Day and dined on a mouth-watering catered barbecue picnic by Josh Taillon of The Blue House (opening soon in Madrid) and tasty side dishes and fixings from Big Spoon Kitchen in Potsdam. Cupcakes, desserts and beverages were generously provided by a donation from Price Chopper.
The organizing collective of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Potsdam wishes to extend our sincerest appreciation to Village of Potsdam Mayor Reinhold J. Tischler and Village Board members: Alexandra Jacobs-Wilke, Abby Lee, Maggie McKeena, and Stephen Warr for their support of this celebration.
Mayor Tischler shared a Proclamation with the crowd at the event, noting Juneteenth as an officially recognized local event moving forward, and noted that a village committee is forming to develop policies to combat racism throughout the village.
Several speakers shared their well-prepared thoughts with the picnickers in attendance, including Black Lives Matters Potsdam leaders Jennifer Baxtron and Dr. John Youngblood, and Raamitha Pillay of the Poor People’s Campaign.
The program opened with an invocation by Rev. Katrina Hebb of the First Presbyterian Church of Potsdam and a blessing of the food was offered by Rev. James Galasinki of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton.
Lively musical entertainment was provided by DJ Double Dutch, which was particularly fun when dozens of participants got up to dance the Electric Slide together!
A fundraiser for the organization to purchase office equipment was coordinated by Joanna Cross, providing absolutely beautiful commemorative tee-shirts, coffee mugs, and tote bags, created by Great Northern Printing, and quickly sold out of their entire stock! We are grateful for these kinds of unsolicited acts of kindness from our community.
A benefit GoFundMe campaign to cover the cost of food and decorations was a tremendous success, garnering $6,180.00 in just a few days' time, easily blowing past the goal of $5,000. BLM Potsdam is grateful to every one of the 134 individual donors who cared and contributed.
Donations of goods and services were generously made by many community members, as well as the Cancer Prevention in Action program of the St. Lawrence Health Initiative for sunscreen samples and by Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County, who provided a sanitary hand-wash unit for the catering station. Too many volunteers assisted to mention them all, but the hearty crew of goose-poop scoopers were perhaps the unsung heroes of the day!
We are also appreciative of the Village of Potsdam employees at the Department of Public Works for displaying our Juneteenth banner at the bypass to raise awareness about the event.
Black Lives Matter Potsdam plans for this to be an annual Juneteenth event, so mark your calendars for June 19, 2021! We look forward to sharing this celebration with even more community participation in a non-Covid era.
In the meantime, vigils honoring George Floyd and the many other victims of police violence are ongoing, every day of the week, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Potsdam Post Office and all peaceful participants are welcome to join us as we endeavor for a more just world.
Local cases of injustice, such as the unsolved murder cases of Garrett Phillips and Treyanna Summerville are also honored at these events.
We thank one and all who participated in so many large and small ways to make our inaugural Juneteenth Celebration Picnic a wonderful success! BLM Potsdam can be reached at [email protected].
Jen Baxtron, Chairperson, Black Lives Matter Potsdam