Juneteenth House of Soul

House of Soul band, from Pittsburgh, performs Saturday, June 15, 2019, during Juneteenth festivities at Peoples Natural Gas Park in downtown Johnstown.

As a way to bring the community together for reflection, fellowship, friendship and unity, the Johnstown Branch of the NAACP will sponsor an eight-day celebration in recognition of Juneteenth, with events scheduled for Saturday through June 19 in downtown Johnstown.

This year’s theme is “Get Right Ready.”

Juneteenth, also known as Independence Day or Freedom Day, is a holiday that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865, and, more generally, the emancipation of former slaves throughout the Confederate South.

“Juneteenth is a holiday that’s sometimes overlooked, but it’s one of the most significant moments in history with the end of slavery, and it changed America and the world,” said Deacon Jeffrey Wilson, an event organizer. “This is an opportunity to learn more about the national history of not only the end of slavery, but the contributions of African Americans to America and the world.”

Festivities will kick off Saturday with a concert, sponsored in part by Flood City Youth Fitness Academy, at Peoples Natural Gas Park, 90 Johns St., downtown Johnstown. Gates will open at 1 p.m.

Entertainment will include House of Soul, from Pittsburgh, playing rhythm and blues, funk and soul music at 1:30 p.m.; Michael Jackson entertainer Aaron Jefferson at 3 p.m.; Sisters With Soul, from Cleveland, entertaining with rhythm and blues at 4 p.m. Also on the slate are Dr. Hook from Philadelphia performing at 5:30 p.m.; neo-soul and rap with Mercedes Barnette at 6 p.m.; Smooth Sound Band, from Johnstown, playing jazz, rhythm and blues and classic rock at 6:30 p.m.; and The Problem, from Philadelphia, entertaining with rhythm and blues, funk and neo-soul at 8:15 p.m.

Martin O. Triplin with Mot Productions will serve as DJ/master of ceremonies. In attendance will be Sha Brown, Pennsylvania’s deputy inspector general for law enforcement oversight.

Food and merchandise vendors will be on site.

Proceeds will benefit Flood City Youth Fitness Academy. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the gate, $10 for children 13 to 17 and free for children 13 and under. To order tickets, call 814-243-3350 or 814-539-0164.

Activities will be held from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday through June 19 in Central Park.

“The planning of these events had people from every race, culture and background offering contributions,” Wilson said. “It’s truly a multicultural event and encompasses everybody. It’s a real look at Johnstown and the diversity of the city.”

At 3 p.m. Sunday, Church in the Park will be held, with the Rev. Rodney Hatfield.

A historical roundtable will be held Monday featuring local historians who will share stories about Black history, the NAACP and the Underground Railroad.

On Tuesday, a basket party to benefit the African American Heritage Society will be held. Tickets will be drawn at 5:30 p.m. In addition, a health fair will be presented, and James Blachly, Johnstown Symphony Orchestra music director, will speak on Black composers.

On Wednesday, a youth and family day will be held. There will be crafts, puppet show and poetry and rap music contest. The movie “Soul” will be shown at dusk.

Unity Coalition of the Southern Alleghenies will hold a unity day Thursday, featuring arts and crafts for youth. There will be performances and music featuring the Ibeji Drum Ensemble.

A women’s day will be held June 18, with entertainment from Smooth Sound Band at 6:30 p.m. At 4 p.m., state police Cpl. Aaron Allen will be the keynote speaker. Sha Brown will be on hand for Allen’s talk.

“Tribute to Heroes” will be held June 19. Pictures and bios of Black heroes in history will be shown throughout the park, and a raffle will be held to benefit the Ron Fisher African American History Educational Fund.

All events are free and open to the public.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/JtownNAACP.

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.

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