CELEBRATION—3 p.m. The community is invited to the “Let Us Fulfill The Dream” celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday. The day will feature local leaders, musicians, college students, and scholars who will give statements, readings, and musical performances that honor Dr. King’s legacy. Free, open to the public. Held at the First United Presbyterian Church, 2 Walling Avenue, Oneonta. Visit https://www.oneontanaacp.com/
COMMUNITY PICNIC – Noon – 3 p.m. The NAACP presents picnic featuring free food, live music, more. Will include a chance to register to vote and information about how the NAACP has campaigned for civil rights and continues to work to protect those rights today. At the Large Pavilion, Neahwa Park, Oneonta. Visit oneontanaacp.com
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.
“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 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.”
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.”
ONEONTA – The mayor and a senior Council member have already opened conversations with Police Chief Doug Brenner on how to review departmental operations in the wake of nationwide unrest following the May 25 death of George Floyd while being taking into custody in Minneapolis.
“First of all, I have confidence in our police chief and police department,” Mayor Gary Herzig said a few minutes ago. “However, this is a time for all of us to do a little introspection and self-awareness and take a look at our operating procedures and our policies to make sure they are designed to do everything that we can to guard against any type of inequality in how we treat the public.”
He expects to be able to announce the form of the review – whether a commission, audit of OPD procedures, through Common Council or some other means – by the end of this week.
PROTEST – 1 – 5 p.m. Come for a peaceful protest against the police violence that led to the death of George Floyd, raise money to support NAACP & ACLU. Be prepared to socially distance, wear your masks. Bring your friends, loved ones, and signs. All are welcome. Otsego County Courthouse, Cooperstown.
When we saw the heinous act of another black man, George Floyd, intentionally being held down by four relaxed policemen and George not resisting arrest, but resisting suffocation and pleading “I can’t breathe, please let me stand,” it makes us return to the actions during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It was difficult to watch one policeman putting his knee with increased pressure on Mr. Floyd’s neck and three policemen watching until another black man’s life was painfully lost.
We could go back to Emmett Till in Mississippi, Ronna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., Eric Garner in New York City, Trayvon Martin and just a few weeks ago, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, shot dead running through a predominately white neighborhood, along with many others too numerous to list or mention.
We are not surprised, we are angry. Yes, again we are shocked when most of these killings we have
witnessed, through new technology – except Emmett Till – result usually without immediate arrest. When these incidents happen they continually make your blood pressure spike for weeks, but we are not surprised of the bad police action throughout our nation and time and time again our justice system not resolving cases.
Shocked? No. Surprised? No. Outraged? Yes! And we exclaim, “Not again!” When is enough going to be enough? A national communication process will certainly not even start with this person presently living in the “wrong house” for three years.
Thursday evening, May 28, Joanne and I participated, along with 1,200 others, in a webinar presented by Derrick Johnson, CEO & president of our National NAACP, and panelist including presidents of the Minneapolis, Georgia, Louisville, New York Branches, each explaining the situations happening in their communities, what they are doing to resolve their immediate problems but also what they are doing with actions moving ahead.
President Derrick Johnson strongly emphasized that if change is to be made, people must use positive energy to complete the Census, get to the polls on Nov. 4, and make a concerted effort to know your legislators and community leaders.
As our vice president, Michelle Osterhoudt, stated in her memo to each of you – “Talk about it, denounce social injustice, raise awareness and most importantly, join your local NAACP.” These are the way that you can make your communities stronger.
THIS MOMENT IS CALLING US TO STAY STRONG EVEN THOUGH WE ARE OUTRAGED AND NOW MORE THAN EVER, WE MUST FIGHT AND DEMAND JUSTICE, AND “WHEN WE FIGHT, WE WIN”!
Perhaps as many as 500 people rallied peacefully in Oneonta’s Muller Plaza this afternoon to hear Rev. LaDana Clark, a former police officer, above, say, “Most of our police are trying to do the right thing, but it’s the bad apples have to be checked and removed! There can be no peace as long as an officer can place his knee on the neck of a black man and take his life in front of our eyes!” As is happening nationwide, SUNY Oneonta student Sadie Starr Lincoln, Oneonta, inset left, organized this afternoon’s protest calling for justice and an end to racism following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Other speakers included SUNY students Johnson Brown and Kimberly Miller; Rev. Craig Schwalenberg, pastor, Unitarian Universalist Society and Shannon McHugh, a member of the city’s Community Relations & Human Rights Commission. Attendees were urged to vote, to speak out when they see incidents of racism and to join the NAACP, Oneonta chapter; Rev. Cynthia Walton-Leavitt of the Red Door Church was on site with NAACP membership applications. The crowd filled Muller Plaza and spread across the street. Since social distancing was difficult, organizers urged attendees to be tested for COVID-19 following the gathering. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
ONEONTA – Lee Fisher, Oneonta area NAACP president, released a letter this morning calling for citizens to make their communities stronger in the wake of the murder of George Lloyd, the black man who was pinned down and suffocated by Minneapolis police officers.
“When we saw the heinous act of another black man, George Floyd, intentionally being held down by four relaxed policemen and George not resisting arrest, but resisting suffocation and pleading ‘I can’t breathe, please let me stand,’ it makes us return to the actions during the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s,” Fisher wrote.
The sanctuary at First United Methodist Church in Oneonta was filled with inspiring words, social commentary and song this afternoon as crowds gathered to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 91st birthday. The event, hosted by the Oneonta NAACP, featured over a dozen speakers and performers including Yolanda Bush, seen above with Rich Mollen, as she sings “Rise Above,” written by Robin Seletsky and dedicated to the Oneonta NAACP. Mayor Gary Herzig, inset right, was also among the speakers, where he praised the NAACP and the Oneonta Police Department for their leadership in civil rights issues. He continued, encouraging vigilance, saying there was still work to do even in a “progressive and diverse” City like Oneonta: “Here in Oneonta, an individual visited our DMV and was told, ‘We cannot serve you,’ and was told to go to Cooperstown. In the year 2020 we are hearing this! As Dr. King said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Oneonta must be open and welcome all persons.” Herzig’s reference was to the “Green Light” Law, where the state Legislature directed the issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal aliens; because of the special equipment and training required, county Clerk Kathy Sinnott Gardner has centralized processing those license applications at the main office in Cooperstown. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
CELEBRATION – 2 – 4 p.m. Celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with NAACP featuring songs from the Civil Rights movement, speech from Gary Herzig, NY Attorney General Letitia James, the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, more. First United Methodist Church, 66 Chestnut St., Oneonta. Visit www.facebook.com/Oneonta-Area-NAACP-183152115619038/