This year all participating Juneteenth locations will feature the same unifying banner.

For the last three years, West Chester has in some way honored Juneteenth but while the passion was there the presentation was at times disjointed. Events and presentations seemed to pop up at random all over the borough. So last year the parties all came together and agreed on a cohesive program around the theme, “Journeying Toward Freedom.” 

“Our main goal is to have people think what is Juneteenth?” says Lilly Mercado, Marketing & Outreach Associate for the Chester County Community Foundation who is helping coordinate the joint venture. Lilly stresses the event is still very much in its pilot phase. “We are first starting with education,” she says. 

The coalition of organizations, which includes West Chester Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste, Chester County Sheriff Fredda Maddox, the Chester County History Center, Melton Center, Chester County Art Association, and the Chester County Community Foundation among others, has events planned from June 14 through June 19 throughout the county.

Among the events being held here are an Underground Railroad tour hosted by the Chester County History Center, an African American Quilting Art Show at the Chester County Art Association, and a Saturday evening celebrating West Chester activist Bayard Rustin

“That’s the event I am most excited for,” says Lilly of the two-hour event featuring a performance from Illuminating Bayard by People’s Light Theater and video commentary from creators behind the Netflix film Rustin due out this fall. Joining by video presentation will be actor Colman Domingo, who plays Rustin, and director George C. Wolfe. 

The series of events will culminate, as it has in the past, with a Freedom Festival at the Melton Center on Juneteenth celebrating “black excellence” with food trucks, dance performances, choir performances, and games. This event and all events are open to everyone. 

“It doesn’t just need to be a black people celebration,” says Lilly. “No one was really free until everyone was free. This is why we celebrate.” Cheers to that. 

Visit the Cultural Alliance of Chester County website for a complete list of Juneteenth events being held throughout Chester County.


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Published, June 9, 2023

This story is part of a longer weekly West Chester newsletter. Curious what else is going on? You can find the full issue here and the latest newsletter here. Even easier? Subscribe here to get the future issues delivered directly.

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