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‘Testament’ to equality

Juneteenth Endowment Fund created at NCCF

Juneteenth volunteers and supporters gather following another successful “Taste of the South” community fundraiser last Friday evening.

The Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation announced today that it has a newly created fund, The Juneteenth Endowment Fund.

“After 25 years of work, we are so excited to have the seeds of permanent funding and support planted with the creation of the Juneteenth Endowment Fund at the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation,” said Loretta Slaton Torain and Sandra Lewis. Torain is the chair of Juneteenth of Northern Chautauqua County, and Lewis is the Finance Chair for the organization.

“The creation of the Fund is a testament to the many people in our community who have worked to ensure our annual Juneteenth celebration, remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. each year, provide scholarships, and promote racial justice and equality in our community. We want to grow the Fund and share its benefits within our community,” they said.

Juneteenth, which is celebrated every year on June 19, is a national celebration of the freeing of those enslaved by way of the Emancipation Proclamation.

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation was a strategic wartime gambit to cripple the Southern economy and possibly gain much-needed Black “Freedmen” soldiers.

The Emancipation Proclamation did not free all those enslaved in the United States, but only those enslaved in the eleven Confederate states (and the areas within those states not under Union Army control). Slavery remained legal otherwise and within the “loyal” Union enslaved states of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri. Slavery did not end in the whole of the United States until the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution on Dec. 6, 1865.

While the Emancipation Proclamation freed Blacks enslaved in the Confederate states effective Jan. 1, 1863, those enslaved in Texas were unaware of the Emancipation Proclamation and their freedom until June 19, 1865. This was two and a half years following the Proclamation’s effective date and two months after the Civil War ended in April 1865. In the late 1800s, the state of Texas started celebrating Juneteenth as a state holiday. On June 17, 2020, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a state holiday.

In 1996, citizens of the Dunkirk-Fredonia community co-sponsored the first Juneteenth Celebration observed in Chautauqua County. This year marks the 25th anniversary of celebrating Juneteenth in our community. The event, which is now primarily organized by Juneteenth of Northern Chautauqua County, commemorates and perpetuates African Americans’ heritage, culture, and contributions. Juneteenth Celebration is a family-oriented event, and everyone is invited to attend.

The Juneteenth Fund began as a gift by a family to the Juneteenth Committee. The Juneteenth Fund seeks to sustain our Community’s Juneteenth Celebration, promote youth educational scholarship(s), encourage community discussions to educate and promote anti-racism and antidiscrimination, and celebrate the lives of great Black women and men; including Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. Du Bois, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and many more outstanding Americans.

The Juneteenth Fund is administered by the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation for the benefit of Juneteenth of Northern Chautauqua County and its purposes and programs. For more information or to contribute to the Fund and the Community Foundation, contact the Foundation at 716-366-4892 or nccf@nccfoundation.org.

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