News of Otsego County


Oneonta celebrates Juneteenth

Oneonta’s Juneteenth celebration a family favorite

Oneonta residents enjoyed an afternoon of Black culture, music, art, and food at the free Juneteenth festival held June 19 in Neawha Park. Twin sisters Diandra (l) and Sierra Sangetti-Daniels organized the day, which featured SUNY Oneonta graduates Bertram Knight and Nyala Blue displaying their artwork. Sponsors included Patrick Ministries Fund of the First United Methodist Church of Oneonta, Key Bank, The Oneonta Area NAACP, Robinson Terrace and Chestnut Park Rehab, Hillside Commons, Prolific Designs , and People’s Perception Project, allowing the fun day to be free of charge. More photos in this week’s edition of The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta

Festival To Celebrate Emancipation


JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION – 1 – 6 p.m. Celebrate the emancipation of the last American slaves with a festival featuring a full day of Black culture, food, music, performances, and art. There will also be bounce house, face painting, gallery displays, and food from Oneonta’s local black businesses. There will also be organizations and services available to provide educational opportunities. It’s a fun day for the whole family to celebrate freedom. Field #5, Neahwa Park, (15 James Georgeson Ave.), Oneonta. 607-432-4500 or visit

Juneteenth celebrated in Neahwa Park

From left, Bruce Evans, Beverly Ivey and Valerie Denis dance in front of the stage in Neahwa Park during a Juneteenth celebration Saturday, June 19. (Kevin Limiti/

Juneteenth celebrated in Neahwa Park

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

ONEONTA – More than 100 people gathered at Neahwa Park on Saturday, June 19, to celebrate Juneteenth, a day that celebrates African-American emancipation.

There was additional cause for celebration Saturday since President Joe Biden signed a law this week making Juneteenth a national holiday.

With a DJ spinning music the entire time, it wasn’t unusual to see spontaneous dancing. Free hamburgers, hotdogs and beverages were also provided. There was face painting, a raffle and artwork.

The event appeared to attract a diverse group of people, both in terms of ethnicity and age. It was very much a family centric event.

Joanne Fisher, assistant secretary for the Oneonta NAACP, said celebrating Juneteenth in Oneonta for the second year in a row is a great idea because it helps people learn about each other and for Black Americans to reclaim parts of their history that are often forgotten or were untaught in schools.

Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, left, speaks with Poletta Louis, center, and Joanne Fisher. (Kevin Limiti/

“I think it’s the only way we’re gonna bridge the gap and learn each other’s value,” Fisher said. “History hasn’t told us everything.”

Fisher, originally from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, said she was not taught about slavery and Juneteenth in her school, and therefore she didn’t get a chance to learn about her own history.

Anita Hopson showed some of her grandmother’s items from West Africa. (Kevin Limiti/

Anita Hopson set up a tent to display old items brought from her grandparents that originated mainly in West Africa.  Some of the items included a jumping broom, used traditionally in marriages, sand paintings and others.

“‘I’m proud to have my family history,” Hopson said. She said she appreciated being given the chance to show these things to people who “don’t look like me.”

The Otsego Pride Alliance had a table at the event in which they put up photos of Black trans and LGBTQ members who were killed in violence across the country. They said they were there to support the Black community and promote equality.

Bertram Knight showcased some of his photographs, which he said were meant to convey the beauty of Black bodies.

“All the images are representations of black beauty,” Knight said, who was “looking for different ways to highlight and elevate differences in our communities.”

Photographs from Bertram Knight. (Kevin Limiti/

Aaron Smith, who moved to Oneonta from Alabama in January, said he was happy Juneteenth was being celebrated here.

“It’s good for me to be able to get out and celebrate Juneteenth,” Smith said. “(It) feels good to be learning about the community and celebrating our newest holiday.”

Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig spoke before the entertainment began, quipping that it was nice to be out without masks.

However, Herzig said the last year was one of “needless tragedy, but one of reckoning and one of change.”

Herzig said the city of Oneonta recently “took a hard look in the mirror,” which was necessary for the community to become “better and better every year.”

Juneteenth is “a day for us to pause, a day for us to catch our breath and a day to celebrate,” Herzig said.

“Slavery may have ended, but its legacy has not,” Herzig said.

Herzig said it is only “through the richness of Black art and Black culture” that others can have a semblance of understanding the experience of Black Americans.

Herzig said he hoped the eventual artists lofts on Dietz Street would become the home of artists of color. 

“Black culture has enriched our lives,” Herzig said. “We are so much better because of the African-American culture.” 

Some of the entertainment included college students performing stepping dances, Jonathan Brown making a speech about how white supremacy not only hurts black people but also white people and the song “Speechless” from the new “Aladin” movie, performed by Ajare Malcolm.

Brown’s speech ended on a note that seemed to encapsulate the entire event. “Be truthful to our human experience,” Brown said. “Before we’re any race, we’re human.”

Ajare Malcolm performs ‘Speechless’ from the new ‘Aladdin’ movie. (Kevin Limiti/


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Juneteenth to be celebrated Saturday in Oneonta

Juneteenth, a celebration of the emancipation of African-Americans during the Civil War, will be celebrated at 3 p.m., Saturday, June 19, in Neahwa Park in Oneonta.
There will be music, food and art.
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig will speak at 5 p.m., before an introduction to Juneteenth from Jonathan Brown.

School merger passes first hurdle

According to officials at both schools, the Board of Educations at Worcester Central School and Schenevus Central School have both unanimously voted Tuesday, June 15, to approve a potential merger. The plan will now go to a non-binding community straw poll Sept. 22, followed by a binding resolution Dec. 3.

Juneteenth Attendees Encouraged To ‘Speak Out’ Against Injustice

Juneteenth Attendees Told

‘Speak Out’ Against Injustice

Michelle Osterhoudt, former Oneonta City teacher and Common Council member, told the crowd gathered in Neahwa Park that as recently as two weeks ago, she was called a racial slur while out in the city with her daughter. “When you see an act of hatred, you need to speak out,” she said. “Because when you don’t, you allow that injustice to happen.” Osterhoudt was on hand to speak as part of the Juneteenth celebration, which brought art, dance, music and speakers to the park to celebrate the anniversary of the final emancipation of slaves in Galveston, Texas, two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. (Libby Cudmore/

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