Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, and this year a host of Oak Bluffs merchants will help celebrate the event by donating some of their proceeds from Saturday, June 19, to help the Martha’s Vineyard Bradley Square project.
Deon’s restaurant will host a reception on Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. as part of the celebration. Tickets are $10, available at the door.
Other participating retailers are C’est la Vie, Cousen Rose Gallery and L’Elegance, all of which open at 10 a.m. on Circuit avenue.
The Bradley Square project is a joint venture with the NAACP and the Island Affordable Housing Fund to preserve the historic Bradley Memorial Church in Oak Bluffs. Built in 1892, and under the leadership of the Rev. Oscar Denniston, an African American, Bradley Memorial served as a learning center to help Portuguese immigrants prepare for naturalization. The church’s predominately African American congregation provided spiritual, religious, community development and humanitarian leadership for the entire Island.
Juneteenth commemorates that on June 19, 1865, two and one half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863) slaves in Texas were informed of their emancipation. While the cause of this delay is uncertain, one popular belief is that the messenger dispatched to Texas was murdered before he arrived. Another is that plantation owners deliberately withheld the news to get through one last cotton crop.
Today, Juneteenth is celebrated around the country to commemorate African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement.