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The Durand-Hedden House & Garden Association and The South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race recently celebrated Juneteenth at Grasmere Park.
Activities included historical reenactors, learning about the history of enslaved people in New Jersey, musical performances, and African dancing.

Children enjoyed face painting, crafts, storytelling, Nubian quilters, and an art exhibit featuring local Black artists. There were also shopping and food vendors.

“Today is our 5th Juneteenth,” said Gail Safian, president, and trustee of Durand-Hedden House. She didn’t say “annual” because they didn’t have the event during the pandemic. They started in 2019.

“Each year, it’s gotten bigger and better, enhancing the history of Juneteenth and having fun,” she said.

Michelle Bobrow, president of the League of Women’s Voters Maplewood-South Orange, was pleased with the event.

“We love bringing different people together for a common purpose,” she said.

Audrey Rowe, program director, South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race said, “We share Edu-tainment—education and entertainment.”

Garnet R. Hall, an assemblywoman and 35-year Maplewood resident said, “Juneteenth means a lot to me. I’m fourth generation of slavery. In the early 1900s, my great grandfather had acres of land in North Carolina. He was the child of a master and slave. Only four generations later, I’m an assemblywoman.”

Teretha Jones was portraying Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who was a seamstress and confidante to Mary Todd Lincoln in the White House.

Daniel Carlton reenacted the story of John Parker, who was born enslaved in Virginia, and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad rescuing slaves.

Nketiah Brabrakohiapk, of Brooklyn, was selling cultural T-shirts. “Anything Juneteenth, struggles, breaking barriers, conscious thinking, symbols…” he said.

Other shopping included African-inspired clothing, accessories, and jewelry, as well as essential oil perfumes. There were also books and cosmetics.

The Durand-Hedden House and Garden Association is Maplewood’s historic house museum, dedicated to creating engaging and informative educational programs and materials about the local history of Maplewood and surrounding communities, natural history, and other related topics. The House is located at 523 Ridgewood Road, Maplewood. To learn more visit www.durandhedden.org.

The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race is a non-profit organization that envisions a community that is a model for the nation in which people of different races, ethnic groups, and backgrounds can interact, form friendships, and participate fully in the community’s economic, political, civic, educational, and cultural life. To learn more about the SOMA Community Coalition on Race, visit www.communitycoalitiononrace.org.