Bloomfield hosted a Juneteenth festival on Friday night – the first of its kind. The two-day celebration began with education on the newly recognized National Day.

A panel discussion was held at Bloomfield High School. Mayor Mike Venezia says he didn’t hear from Juneteenth when he attended Bloomfield High. This is something the panelists want to change.

“Freedom is not free. You are going to have to fight. You are going to have to fight, but it will take everyone in this room and everyone who is not there ”, explains the poet and activist Amina Baraka.

Juneteenth is a commemorative celebration of June 19, 1865 – the day the last slaves learned of their freedom. The celebration is centuries old, but some people only find out about it recently.

“I think sometimes we get positions that some people are afraid to find out about history, so what results that would bring. But don’t look at it that way. See it as an educational opportunity to move forward, ”said Kasey Dudley, Bloomfield Civil Rights Commissioner.

The mayor says he only heard of Juneteenth about four years ago.

“We have to make ourselves uncomfortable to be comfortable for the future,” Mayor Venezia said. “And teaching our young people is the most important aspect. “

The debate on including critical race theory in the school curriculum continues. Educator Dr Djanna Hill-Tall says this is a topic that shouldn’t be ignored.

“I ask my teachers to try to teach the truth. I think this celebration, its history, definitely gets into the K-12 curriculum because we are talking about the history of this country, ”Hall-Tall said.

Other events for the Juneteenth celebration include a reading of the Juneteenth proclamation, followed by a solidarity march at Bloomfield College. There is also a street festival on Washington Street to showcase black-owned businesses.