Juneteenth in the Rockaways!

Rockaway Cultural Group celebrates historic day with children at Ocean Bay

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On June 16, the Rockaway Cultural Group joined the drumming class at Ocean Bay Child Center NY Cornerstone for an event in recognition of Junteenth 2021.

The children sat intently as the performers entered the gym to Pick a Bail of Cotton sung by legend Led Belly. Dressed in old garb, burlap sacks slung over shoulders, reenacting what it was like, with cotton balls tossed on the floor for true to life effect, they swung to and fro bending, picking, sweating and expressing the hardships of the times.

A thunderous roar was called out to the slaves — “We are Free‼️ We are Free….The Emancipation Proclamation says We Are FREE!” Well you can imagine the cries and shouts of joy upon hearing the announcement. African drumming burst into celebratory beats as one performer danced while the others hugged, jumped and cried out in joyful prayer.

A children’s story was read by Brenda Temple – All Different Now, by author Angela Johnson. This book was age appropriate for the first to fourth graders in attendance. The children understood that something unfair had happened a long time ago and that something great occurred on June 19, 1865.

“What Juneteenth Means to Me” was written and enthusiastically performed by artist Lateef Sanders.

One of the many classes at Ocean Bay Child Center NY Cornerstone is drumming. Dyshaw, their teacher, led the group of boys and girls in a spectacular drumming performance while our professional African dancer/performer Kimberly Comes rhythmic movements reminded us of our rich African culture.

We concluded with everyone joining Kimberly in a celebratory dance circle of Freedom‼️

The children were asked if they enjoyed and understood the show, and I am happy to say we heard good things.

June 19th, Juneteenth, Freedom Day is finally recognized as a National Holiday. We are so grateful that now more than ever Black History is being recognized and appreciated by all.

Rockaway Cultural Group is excited to bring cultural experiences each month to the community leading up to our spectacular celebration of Kwanzaa in December!

The Rockaway Cultural Group would like to thank Vincent, Assistant Director, Darryl, Recreation Coordinator and staff (sound, lights, video) and especially Dyshaw, teacher/Recreation Coordinator and his drumming class for helping to make this 1st official Juneteenth Holiday a successful celebration and learning experience.
Children played drums and listened to stories about what happened in the past as they commemorated Juneteenth – the say that slaves in the United States were set free. Photo by Darryl Devore

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