Advocacy on Juneteenth shows work not done, say Saratoga BLM organizers – The Daily Gazette

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The sparse crowd at the start of the June 19 Saratoga Black Lives Matter celebration on Monday was largely due to many members of the movement being in Albany to be part of the response following a shooting involving a policeman.

“There are a lot of organizations trying to split their time between being here for this and coming here too,” said Chandler Hickenbottom, a Saratoga BLM organizer. “So we’re expecting people to start coming in, but the shooting just happened a few hours ago, so it’s pretty crazy right now.”

The fact that organizers had to split their time between advocating in response to the Albany incident – ​​in which Albany police reported that police shot and killed a man after an Albany police officer was stabbed — and Monday’s celebration proves that when it comes to racial justice, more progress is still needed, Hickenbottom said.

In fact, that message was echoed by many at the June 19 Saratoga BLM celebration at Saratoga Spa State Park.

“It is important that we not only celebrate the work that we have done for black liberation and for the liberation of all, but also that we work together to continue this, because there is still a lot of work to be done,” said Natalya Lakhtakia. , who is a school board member for the Saratoga Springs City School District, but said she was at Monday’s event as an audience member. “I think it’s important that any accomplishments we make don’t mean the job is done.”

Monday marked the first time many Americans had a day off from work and school in honor of June 19, which was officially declared a federal holiday for the first time last year when the President Joe Biden signed the June 19 National Independence Day Act.

But this year’s June 19 celebrations also come just over a month after a deadly mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo specifically targeting black people. In fact, several Saratoga BLM organizers attended Buffalo Juneteenth festivities over the weekend, which is part of the reason the group decided to hold local festivities on Monday rather than Sunday, TJ Sangare said. , an organizer, as he finished packing picnic tables in red, green and gold tablecloths – the colors representing Pan-Africanist ideology.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas and read a statement announcing that all slaves who continued to be held in bondage were free, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. January 1, 1863.

This year was Saratoga BLM’s second annual Juneteenth celebration. It featured live music, poetry, guest speakers and a voter registration drive, among other elements. Organizers expected an attendance of around 100 people, although only a few dozen were at the pavilion about 40 minutes after the scheduled start.

The event was co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Greater New York. Many Planned Parenthood patients are part of often marginalized groups — whether they identify as people of color, LGBTQ+ or another identity — so it’s important to spread a message of unity and inclusion, said Nicole Margiasso, director of Organizing with Planned Parenthood of Greater New York.

“Sometimes what it’s like to serve our patients is to show up in other ways in the community,” Margiasso said. “We stand in solidarity with members of our black community and their fight for racial justice. All of these rights intersect, so if we want to defend one, we really have to defend them all.

Benjamin Samaniuk, 14, of Niskayuna, said he is happy that black history is finally starting to get more attention.

“African-American culture is often overlooked, and it’s so important,” he said. “People learn more about coexisting with other cultures when they are introduced to other cultures at a younger age.”

Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation were setting up a tent where visitors could use stencils to decorate tote bags in the shape of luminaries and leaders like Malcolm X and Harriet Tubman, said Chris Garramone, an organizer for the band.

But beyond a party favor, Garramone hoped attendees would walk away with a call.

“Through events like this, the community comes together and sees the strength they have in coming together for a common cause,” Garramone said. “It’s to celebrate one of the greatest events in US history – the overthrow of slavery – and the recognition that the job isn’t done.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

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Maria D. Ervin