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Crowds celebrate at Juneteenth block party despite scorching heat

June 19, 2024
  • Balloons mark the entrance to the Juneteenth block party outside the Florida Ruffin Ridley School. Photo by Kerri Kelleher

Hundreds of people braved extreme heat to celebrate Juneteenth at a block party outside the Florida Ruffin Ridley School on Wednesday.

The holiday, on June 19 every year and a federal holiday since 2021, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

The Brookline event, put on by an organization called Brookline for the Culture, featured food, vendors selling art and jewelry, booths manned by different town departments, DJed music and an inflatable bounce house. To fight the record high temperature, children played on a splash pad, and guests filled up bottles and cups at a portable water station sponsored by the town’s water and sewer division.

At around 1p.m., several speakers introduced the event and talked about the meaning of Juneteenth in Brookline.

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After Adena Walker sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the “Black national anthem,” community activist and local elected official Kimberley Richardson started her speech by calling the holiday “sacred and profound.”

“I have known the taste of freedom. Yet I often still feel bound by unseen chains,” Richardson said. “These are the realities that accompany my identity, my history and my daily experiences. I want to share with my neighbors here in Brookline that I should not have to feel that way. No one should.”

Juneteenth is a celebration of emancipation, but “fear and anxiety continue to shadow our lives because our experiences are profoundly different than our neighbors,” Richardson said.

She called on the Brookline community to “not only join us in this celebration, but to actively embrace us as your neighbors, your friends and your equals.”

Earlier in the day at a separate event, a group marched through town to honor the 84 people who were enslaved in Brookline.