Kathy Chang/The Sun
Joy Williamson (right) and Marietta McDuffy of Marietta’s Design One of a Kind participated in the Juneteenth celebration at Washington Lake Park.

The grounds of Washington Lake Park Amphitheater were filled with the loud sounds of freedom.

There were vendors of all kinds from clothing, accessories and artwork to food vendors. Children along with adults were able to play with giant connect four boards, pickleball, cornhole, basketball and darts. The Washington Township police Bomb Pop Ice Cream truck was on hand offering cool treats.

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It was all made possible through Gloucester County NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office for their annual Juneteenth celebration that was held on June 15.

“We just appreciate being able to be recognized and being able to celebrate with everyone else,” said Joy Williamson with Marietta McDuffy. “We are grateful for this day and celebration and honor.”

The pair traveled from Chicago to showcase Marietta’s Design One of a Kind, a line of handmade light weight crossbody bags, which has expanded to shoe bags, water holders and trash can bags for the car.

Juneteenth is celebrated with festivals, parades, activist rallies, providing a safe space to have important discussions about race, barbecues, and erecting commemorative murals.

Also known as Freedom Day, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of all enslaved African Americans in the U.S. on June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, bringing news of freedom to those enslaved there. It was two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Lincoln in 1863.

Although the 13th amendment abolished slavery, people born into it were not granted citizenship – including the right to own property – until the ratification of the 14th amendment in 1868. African American men did not receive the right to vote until the ratification of the 15th amendment in 1870.

In 2021, President Joe Biden designated June 19 a federal holiday after 1.5 million petition signatures and many marches to Washington, D.C., from Fort Worth, Texas, by Opal Lee, who was named the grandmother of Juneteenth.

“It was a day filled with joy, unity, and reflection,” the police department noted of the township celebration on its Facebook page. “We were honored to join in the festivities and commemorate this significant day in history. Thank you to everyone who came out and made it such a memorable event.

“Let’s continue to foster a spirit of understanding and togetherness.”

On hand for the event were members of the community, including the township fire department, members of township council, Mayor Laurie Burns, Gloucester County Commissioner and former Washington Township mayor Joann Gattinelli, Gloucester County NAACP President Loretta Winters and Gloucester County Prosecutor Christine Hoffman.