image

NEWBURYPORT — People will get to swim for free and join competitive double Dutch jump ropers Wednesday afternoon when YWCA Greater Newburyport rolls out its second annual Juneteenth block party.

“We’re calling it a block party because there’s going to be so much different stuff going on,” YWCA Health and Wellness Director Ilene Harnch-Grady said.

Juneteenth, established as a federal holiday in 2021, marks the anniversary of when residents in Galveston, Texas, were told slavery had ended on June 19, 1865 – more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

All city offices will be closed for the holiday and the celebration will begin with a Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony in front of City Hall at noon.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alliance member Lynn Ormondi will serve as the keynote speaker and the ceremony will roll right into the YWCA’s block party.

“Obviously, we’re hoping people come and take part in the whole day of events, including the city’s flag-raising ceremony,” Harnch-Grady said. “Then, they can come over and do all the other presentations and demonstrations we’re going to be having here.”

The block party will run from 1 to 4 p.m. and will see almost the entire Market Street campus open to the public, Harnch-Grady said.

Angela Francis and the Roxbury-based competitive double Dutch jump rope team, The Rope Burners, will demonstrate its talent at the YWCA and invite people to join in for the second year in a row.

Dance instructor Greg Coles will teach African and Latin moves while social justice singer/songwriter Chris Walton will play a blend of soul and jazz with a modern aesthetic.

A free community swim in the YWCA’s pool will be offered from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

“Last year’s block party was one of the biggest events we’ve done at our campus in a long time,” Harnch-Grady said. “So, we’re excited to do it again this year.”

Harnch-Grady, who is also a part of the YWCA’s Racial Justice Committee, said the block party was organized in conjunction with the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alliance.

“We want to continue to create awareness around Juneteenth,” she said. “We like to think of it as a celebration of freedom, family and joy.”

Mayor Sean Reardon said in a text message that he is excited for the city’s Juneteenth celebration and looking forward to the block party as well.

“I want to thank Tina Los for all the hard work she has done putting (the flag-raising ceremony) together,” he said, referring to the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion coordinator.

Harnch-Grady said the YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

The Juneteenth block party fits right in with that mission, she said.

“We’re beyond excited to not only be celebrating the holiday but to be doing it at the YWCA, which has been an integral part of social justice programs for close to 140 years,” she said.

The block party will take place rain or shine. In case of rain, many events will be moved to the nearby Central Congregational Church on Titcomb Street.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.