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Central NJ’s only Black history museum to hold Juneteenth celebration


The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM), central New Jersey’s only Black history museum, will hold its first Juneteenth celebration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 18.

The family-friendly event, “Freedom Forward,” will feature live music from The Jonathan Ware Quartet, food from Trenton BBQ restaurant “The Big Easy,” artist talks, theatrical performances, activities for kids, and community speakers and leaders celebrating African American resilience and freedom.

It will take place at the National Historic Register-listed Mt. Zion AME Church in Skillman, N.J., and the adjacent True Farmstead, a historic African American-owned property recently purchased by SSAAM and the Sourland Conservancy.

Among the day’s highlights will be artistic workshops at the True Farmstead. Noted Princeton artists, activists and educators Judith Brodsky and Rhinold Ponder will present “Black Artists: Elevating the Community,” a talk about five Black artists who lived in and around the Sourlands 50 years ago. These artists believed that art was for everyone and could elevate the quality of life for individuals in the community.

Immediately following the presentation, Emmy-winning artist and educator Dr. Ronah Harris will give community members a chance to create art of their own: guiding visitors through the craft of quilt-making as an artistic and storytelling tradition in the African American community.

Visitors will have the opportunity to make quilt squares representing their own culture, the future, and social justice. The squares will be incorporated into SSAAM’s first community quilt, representing the beautiful mosaic of people in the Sourlands region.

Actors from the Allegra School of Music and Arts will present “To Be Free,” an original Juneteenth performance written by dramatist Ryan Kilpatrick. The play offers a candid view of this new American holiday and the historical events surrounding its origin story, as well as the collective responsibility for shaping a more just and equitable shared future.

Educational offerings at the event will include a talk by Rutgers University undergraduate Isabella Ruiter, who will discuss her travels as well as the history of Africans’ trans-Atlantic contributions to African American culture.

Local organizations will host tables and booths; SSAAM’s partner organization, the Sourland Conservancy, will present an interactive exhibit titled “Nature in the Sourlands.”

“Freedom Forward” is co-sponsored by the Princeton University Art Museum. To sponsor “Freedom Forward,” register a vendor table, or purchase tickets, visit Tickets will also be sold at the door.

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