News from the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners

Shanel Y. Robinson, Commissioner Director Ÿ Melonie Marano, Commissioner Deputy Director

Sara Sooy, Commissioner Ÿ Paul Drake, Commissioner Ÿ Doug Singleterry, Commissioner

June 13, 2022


Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman to Give

Juneteenth Keynote in Somerset County

SOMERVILLE – Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman will for a second year give the keynote address at Somerset County’s Juneteenth event on June 16, the county announced today.  The event will be held on the steps of the historic Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville on Thursday at 6 p.m. and will feature a variety of musical and theatrical performances by local youth.

“Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has distinguished herself as a truth-teller about American history and the central role played by African Americans over the last four centuries,” said Somerset County Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson, who will emcee the county’s second annual commemoration of Juneteenth.

In April, Rep. Watson Coleman sponsored the National Liberty Memorial Preservation Act that would recognize the role of African American and Indigenous troops who helped win the American Revolution with a monument near the Washington Mall. The legislation passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate.

“It was my honor to speak last year at the Somerset County Juneteenth event on the very day that President Biden signed into law legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday,” Rep. Watson Coleman said.  “I look forward to participating again this week.”

Live performances will feature an eclectic blend of poetry, jazz, spirituals, and contemporary music, including international soprano Sonya Headlam performing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and the Jonathan Ware Quartet premiering selections from “Talking Suite.” Additional entertainment will include poetry performances by Olivia Altidor and Ssanyu Lukoma, and the premiere of an original Juneteenth dramatic skit, titled “To Be Free,” written by playwright Ryan Kilpatrick and performed by local Somerset County youth.

Immediately after the Juneteenth celebration, Downtown Somerville will host a live performance by Alexander Simone and Whodat? on Division Street until 9 p.m. Simone is the grandson of legendary Nina Simone.


Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation in 2020 declaring Juneteenth a state and public holiday. President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on June 17, 2021 – the same day that Somerset County held its inaugural Juneteenth celebration.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger rode to Galveston, Texas and informed enslaved people of their freedom as stated by the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

By celebrating Juneteenth, Somerset County acknowledges New Jersey’s history of enslavement and the oppression of its African American residents, as our diverse and caring community actively creates remedies and builds an inclusive, shared, and bright future.

For more information, contact the Cultural & Heritage Commissioner at 908-231-7110, or visit our website at

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