North Fork’s first Juneteenth parade set for Greenport

The Greenport community will welcome the North Fork’s first-ever Juneteenth parade as part of its annual celebration of the federal holiday.

Greenport’s Clinton Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, along with the Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force and a local chapter of Coming to the Table, an Oakland, Calif.-based anti-racist organization, will host the Greenport community’s third annual Juneteenth celebration Saturday, June 15. This year’s affair is the biggest yet, with an array of celebrations and activities held at three locations as well as a parade. The procession will step off at the church on Third Street at 10:30 a.m. and arrive at Mitchell Park in time for a string of guest speakers and celebrations that begin at 11 a.m.

“Come one, come all as we have a good time as we celebrate freedom,” said the Rev. Natalie Wimberly, the pastor of Clinton Memorial. “Freedom is a call for celebration … Freedom lifts people out of the things that held them captive, [including] our old attitudes, mindsets, systems and beliefs. This is a time when we celebrate the uniqueness and the diversity of all of those who God has created on this earth.”

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, that a Union Army officer in Galveston, Texas, read General Order No. 3 to the last remaining enslaved African Americans informing them that chattel slavery had been abolished in the United States. The original handwritten record of General Order No. 3 is preserved at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021. In 2022, the Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force organized its first Juneteenth celebration at Clinton Memorial. Last year, the church hosted its second annual celebration on its grounds, which sprang to life with poetry, singing and dancing.

Greenport’s third annual Juneteenth celebration will begin at 10 a.m., at which time the church will host an invocation, a vocal performance of the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and a reading of General Order No. 3. The Rev. Wimberly said the parade will feature marchers, bicyclists and automobiles and added that she is still reaching out to local businesses to get involved.

At Mitchell Park, the pastor said that religious officials from other local congregations will speak and Greenport High School sophomore Faith Welch will read a guest column she wrote for The Suffolk Times. In the column, she described a celebration of Juneteenth across the entire North Fork as an “opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of African Americans to the region’s heritage and to reflect on the ongoing journey toward racial equality. It is also an opportunity to acknowledge the history of slavery on the North Fork, which I researched along with four of my classmates at Greenport High School.”

The Rev. Wimberly said she is still adding speakers and performers to the day’s agenda. Among the other activities that will take place at Mitchell Park, participants can expect performances and storytelling just like last year, as well as an all-new activity.

“There’s going to be yoga,” the pastor said. “We’re asking people to bring their own picnic baskets so they can have a picnic on the grounds … The day is still forming.”

At 2 p.m., North Fork Arts Center will screen the 2022 documentary “Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom.”

“There will be a panel discussion and we’ll go from there,” the Rev. Wimberly said of what she has planned after the documentary viewing.

Last year, the Greenport community poured onto Main and Front streets for a pride parade, the first of its kind on the North Fork, much like this year’s Juneteenth parade. When asked what she makes of the back-to-back firsts in her community, the Rev. Wimberly said, “I think what this does and what it says is that we celebrate diversity and inclusion.”