“Awesome” Juneteenth Festival in Swedesboro

WOOLWICH TWP. — One of the area’s biggest Juneteenth Celebrations was held at Kingsway High School, Lot K13, in Woolwich Township on June 17. This FREE family event offered enjoyment for everyone with engaging history, music, dancing, a drill team, professional actors, children’s activities, African face painting, vendors, and much more.

People of various ages and backgrounds gathered to celebrate America’s true Freedom Day. “We believe the BEST place to celebrate freedom is here in Woolwich Township, because we have a Mt. Zion A.M.E., [and] an Underground Railroad site,” said Rev. Sherry Lynn Hall, Director of Community Programming, HELP, Inc.

Mt. Zion is across from Kingsway’s athletic fields on Garwin Road. It was established in 1799, making it one of the oldest African-American churches in America.  It was also one of Harriet Tubman’s stops on her Springtown line.

Audience members began the day with a tour of Mt. Zion AME church and cemetery. “This history is amazing and really eye-opening,” said Iris Pina, Carneys Point. “Who knew so much history was in our back door.”

Attendees were then entertained by the 40 member Camden Sophisticated Sisters Step and Distinguished Brothers Drum teams. Another headliner, The Trumpet Chics, Camden, had people dancing in front of the stage. This teen jazz band has won “Gold” in national awards. Many of its performers are now working professionally with artists such as Esmeralda Spalding and Jill Scott.

“We always give audiences entertainment and education at our events, so this year we presented William Still,” said Hall.  Marvin Jefferson, professional actor, portrayed William Still, who aided 700 slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

“His performance truly moved me,” said William Corsey, a HELP Board member whose great-grandfather escaped from slavery and found refuge at Mt. Zion church. Corsey lead attendees to the tombstones of his escaped ancestor and 13 Colored Troop soldiers.

“You always do a fantastic job with your programs. I came last year and was happy to come back this year,” remarked Commissioner Director Frank DiMarco. DiMarco, Commissioner Jim Jefferson, and Surrogate Joe Chila, joined HELP, Inc. in honoring the 2023 Swedesboro Juneteenth Art and Essay Contest winners.  “The work that the students submitted this year was superb,” remarked Contest Chair Dr. Michele Blair.

Pictures of the performers and winning submissions can be seen on FaceBook (Swedesboro Juneteenth Festival).

This event was hosted by HELP, Inc, and supported by Woolwich Township, Holcomb Bus, Zallies Foundation, Pat’s Pizza, and the Women’s Progressive Club.  HELP, Inc. sponsors the Swedesboro MLK Day, Black History Program, and Juneteenth programs, and provides historic tours throughout the year.

To find out how you can donate and/or volunteer to support their mission, please visit www.helpinc.org, or email inquiries to info@helpinc.org. HELP is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, and is actively recruiting new members.  All are welcome.

 “Funding has been made possible in part by the Gloucester County Cultural & Heritage Commission of Rowan College of South Jersey, and the New Jersey Historical Commission/Department of State.”

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