Montclair Commemorates Juneteenth

Montclair Commemorates Juneteenth
Posted on 06/21/2021

For the first time, Montclair Public Schools recognized Juneteenth as an official holiday and engaged in activities commemorating the emancipation of slaves in the United States on June 19, 1865. “We are an inclusive district and we celebrate and respect our diversity and different cultures and welcome opportunities for recognition,” said Superintendent Jonathan Ponds.

Below is just a sampling of some of the things that took place around the district for students and staff.

The Juneteenth session of the Teacher Institute for Black Lives wrapped up last week, with 119 people signing up to attend five after-school classes on the following topics: From Miseducation to a Legacy of Liberation
The Truth about the Emancipation Proclamation Juneteenth: A How-to
Reconstruction: Our Unfinished Revolution

Participants lauded the program for providing inspiration to go beyond content and teach critical thinking to students. In addition, many had the opportunity to attend two lectures on the history behind Juneteenth, presented by Dr. Stephanie James-Harris, executive director of the NJ Amistad Commission, and Dr. Leslie Wilson, Montclair State University professor.

On Thursday, June 17, all Bradford students participated in a virtual assembly celebrating Juneteenth. Mr. Anthony Keys, fifth grade social studies/science teacher, explained the history and significance of Juneteenth, as well as traditional ways it is celebrated. Judith Grodner, Spanish teacher, led the students in constructing a djembe using paper cups, twine and other materials graciously supplied to every student by the PTA. Peter Creekmore, music teacher, then taught the students the history of the djembe, a drum from West Africa used to communicate across long distances. The students learned the two main parts of the fanga rhythm, bass and tone, and then played along with a video of a performance of Funga Alafia, a song that originated in Harlem in the 1950s.

Bullock students and staff plans wore red on June 17 in honor of Juneteenth. Additionally, a slideshow presentation from the most recent Teachers Undoing Racism Now workshop was adapted to serve as professional development for staff as they prepared to share the history and celebration of Juneteenth with their students. Grade level-appropriate videos were provided for students viewing to better understand the significance of this holiday. 

Juneteenth slide
The Hillside Social Justice (HSJ) Committee developed a comprehensive lesson plan and slide presentation for all of our students to be a part of. "HSJ, thank you for your phenomenal support and work," said Principal Samanthaa Anglin.

Juneteenth celebration Juneteenth entertainment

juneteenth celebration juneteenth celebration
In celebration of Juneteenth, a Nishuane school-wide program was held including performances by students and parents. "Nishuane had a wonderful celebration of Juneteenth on Saturday! The rain couldn’t stop us from this celebration," said Principal Jill McLaughlin. "Families enjoyed performances by the Black Arts Collective as well as poetry, dance, and music by Nishuane alumni! We also had a parent read aloud and chalk color symbols of freedom activity for children! We are grateful for our School Action Team for Partnership (SATp) Cultural Infusion subcommittee chair, Ms. Tinu Joseph, and our other team members, Diane Tehranian, LaNa Jones-Jules and Linda Kow and their families for this wonderful event!

In addition, classes learned about Juneteenth, including one in which students watched two video clips provided by Tara Wentzell, had a discussion, and then completed a SeeSaw activity (purposefully using the colors red, white, and blue to match the Juneteenth flag). Said second grade teacher Daniel O'Connor, "It was exciting to hear the kids share and reflect on what was for many of them brand new information."

Juneteenth slide  dance perfomance
The 4th grade staff and students put together a Juneteenth assembly program at Watchung. The assembly was shared with the school and included history and a dance performance. The students also learned about African dances and how to perform them and art classes created crafts.

Juneteenth celebration
The Montclair community also celebrated at various events around town attended by our students and staff.

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