STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Hundreds gathered to celebrate Black pride and liberation at the fourth annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival, hosted by the Staten Island Community Alliance (SICA) at the South Meadow lawn of Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden in Livingston on Saturday.

The all-day event was filled with entertainment featuring dancers, drummers, singers, spoken-word poets such as MayaDaPoet and Poet Laureate Kayden Hern, and a fashion show.

Juneteenth Freedom Festival

Dana Walker Boyd, president of SICA, poses with her husband Willie Boyd Jr. at the fourth annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival at the South Meadow lawn of Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. (Staten Island Advance/ Priya Shahi)Priya Shahi

“Juneteenth means everything to me because we are able to celebrate the freedom and liberation of enslaved Americans,” Dana Walker Boyd, president of SICA, said. “It is also an African American celebration we can have in the United States. We are grateful to have this opportunity to showcase all of our culture, art, music and fashion.”

The event kicked off with the National Anthem and Juneteenth Flag presented by the Susan E. Wagner High School Marching Band and Curtis High School ROTC Color Guard. Following that, Paighton Stewart sang the Negro National Anthem.

Juneteenth Freedom Festival

Scenes from the fourth annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival hosted by SICA at the South Meadow lawn of Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Staten Island Advance/ Priya Shahi)Priya Shahi

A Candle Lighting Ceremony followed, during which SICA board members shared their reasons for lighting the candle: to honor the souls who suffered spiritual and mental anguish; to remember the children who witnessed the horrors of slavery shaping their futures; for the women who endured repeated exploitation; for the men who faced continual oppression; for the generations burdened by lasting psychological pain; for those who fought and perished without tasting freedom; for those who continue the struggle today; and for all who have withstood the enduring horrors of history.

Gregory Taylor performed a libation honoring the creator and giving thanks to the ancestors for withstanding everything they did.

Juneteenth Freedom Festival

Gregory Taylor performed a libation at the Juneteenth Freedom Festival on Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Staten Island Advance/ Priya Shahi)Priya Shahi

“We give praise and thanks to the creator for without you, nothing is possible. Lastly, we give praise and thanks to all those ancestors who gave up their blood, who gave up their sweat, who gave up their lives and their tears, so that we may stand upon their shoulders… because without your family line, we wouldn’t be here today,” Taylor said.

On site, attendees enjoyed a range of activities, including free health screenings by Community Health Action S.I., an art show exhibit titled “Winter Garden” by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and a Tuscan Garden offering wellness walks, stretches, and a Pilates class with Sharing the Bliss.

Additionally, dozens of local vendors showcased traditional attire, jewelry, merchandise, artworks, and cultural foods.

Juneteenth Freedom Festival

Scenes from the fourth annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival hosted by SICA at the South Meadow lawn of Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Staten Island Advance/ Priya Shahi)Priya Shahi

For Tory Delaine, a vendor selling Black pride merchandise, Juneteenth signifies “celebrating Black independence.”

“It’s is a festive day to have fun. It’s just all about coming together as a community and celebrating that,” Delaine added.

Marcia Herera served as the master of ceremonies, accompanied by DJ Tyson who spun lively music throughout the event.

“It’s always a joy to see the hundreds of people who come through for this festival,” Richmond County Public Administrator Edwina Matin said. “The importance of Juneteenth just compounds from year to year as we remember why it’s so important to continue fighting for equal rights for everyone.

Juneteenth Freedom Festival

Scenes from the fourth annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival hosted by SICA at the South Meadow lawn of Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Staten Island Advance/ Priya Shahi)Priya Shahi