News from the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners
Shanel Y. Robinson, Commissioner Director Ÿ Doug Singleterry, Commissioner Deputy Director
Sara Sooy, Commissioner Ÿ Melonie Marano, Commissioner Ÿ Paul M. Drake, Commissioner
For Immediate Release
June 7, 2023
Somerset County Will Celebrate Juneteenth on June 19
Family-Oriented Program to Feature Dance, Soul Food, and Intergenerational Conversation
SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Somerset County Board of County Commissioners, in partnership with the Downtown Somerville Alliance, invites residents to its third annual Juneteenth Celebration on Monday, June 19, on the steps of the Somerset County Historic Courthouse, located at 20 North Bridge St., Somerville NJ 08876. The celebration, which will be held rain or shine, will initially kick off with music by DJ Brighter Daze at 4 p.m. before the live program begins at 6 p.m.
The main act, Soul Steps, has been featured on Good Day NY, CBS 2, and at Paris Fashion Week. They will showcase the African American dance tradition known as “Stepping”, a high-energy performance art that combines percussive movement, hip-hop rhythms, and call and response.
The celebration also will include an inter-generational panel conversation among local African American families that will be facilitated by Commissioner Director Robinson, a spiritual expression in a dance known as a Ring Shout Circle, a children’s workshop and performance of African dance by Zawadi African Dance & Drum, soul food, and exhibits by local African American-owned businesses. In addition, participants will have an opportunity to watch as artist Raven George creates a painting live during the program.
“As the first African American to lead the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners, I am thrilled to emcee our third annual Juneteenth celebration. By celebrating Juneteenth, we acknowledge our past while keeping an eye towards our shared future,” said Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson. “This year, the Board of County Commissioners has created a Somerset County Juneteenth Leadership Award, which will be presented in honor of Lillie Mae Bryant.”
Somerset County Juneteenth Leadership Award
This year’s Juneteenth Leadership Award is being presented posthumously to Lillie Mae Bryant, a Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office employee of 25 years who participated in many philanthropic activities to help her community.
In the 1960s, Lillie Mae was an active member of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., strategized with a young Congressman John Lewis, participated in lunch counter sit-ins, and was jailed many times because of her efforts. During one jail stay, she wrote her personal story on a roll of jailhouse toilet paper, which is being donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to help preserve the history of the Civil Rights Movement.
When asked why she put her life on the line during the Civil Rights Movement, Lillie Mae Bryant said, “I wanted my children and future generations of all races and backgrounds to have freedom and a better life.”
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.
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.
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 https://SoCoNJ.gov/Juneteenth.
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