Granby Celebrates Juneteenth festival features sports, music

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The Alvin Carter Jr. Project with Waynette on vocals perfoming at the Juneteenth Festival. Photo by Clay Rogers

Second event offers inspiring messages

Though a short-notice venue change occurred due to the weather forecast, Granby Racial Reconciliation’s (GRR) second Granby Celebrates Juneteenth Arts and Education Festival proved to be a well- received and successful event.

The move indoors to Granby Memorial Middle School prevented the morning rain from dampening the spirits of players in the inaugural basketball tournament and skills workshop. Some participants are already planning to return next year and after recruiting more teams.

Another addition to the Juneteenth festivities was a Double Dutch Exhibition, lesson, and contest offered by JADHA’s CT American Double Dutch League. Lady Carrie McCorey and team members showed their skill expertly and then provided an opportunity for audience participation in this fun and demanding sport. Smiles were evident on jumpers’ faces!

A Black festival goer from Hartford indicated a highlight of her experience was “the races all connecting as one.” This was seconded by GRR treasurer Bob Giles. He thought the venue change to indoors provided more opportunities for attendees to mingle and connect with each other.

Leonard Epps. Photo by Ken Mouning.

The Arts and Education Festival opened with African drummer Leonard Epps connecting festival attendees through the rhythmical beat of human hearts synching up. This laid the track for a harmonious day. DJ DPHR was adept at emceeing the event with ease and humor, moving in stride with the changes inherent in such a large event.

Ever a crowd favorite, Granby-based Sazzy Brass jazz combo, led by GRR Juneteenth committee member Rosemarie Roy on trombone and Dawn Zukowski on trumpet, raised the energy with blues and jazz standards with an R&B twist.

The Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Jazz Band and Choir captivated the audience with their musical talents. The choir’s rendition of The Real Ambassadors elevated the lyrics with conviction. The jazz band deftly dispatched jazz standards. The future of music is bright with these youths following their passions.

Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts high school jazz choir. Photo by Ken Mouning

Liberty Christian Center Praise Team filled the space with uplifting and powerful music and moved audience members to their feet- high praise for the Praise team!

The SKJ Experiment drew people out on the floor, dancing to the sounds of Motown, R&B, and pop favorites. It was hard to find anyone at the venue who could keep themselves from moving to the music of The SKJ Experiment!

A highlight for many was the incredible music/dance combo of Jocelyn Pleasant and Medusa. The incomparable Corey Hutchins energetically tapdancing augmented the stellar beats and chords of the band- an amazing sight to see and sound to hear!

Jocelyn Pleasant and Corey Hutchins. Photo by Clay Rogers

The musical evening culminated with the Alvin Carter Jr. Project and special guests, Ken Hammer and Raynette Lockhart. The song selections paid tribute to the music of the African Diaspora, a drawing together of all the musical styles shared at this year’s festival. The soulful, seductive, and regal voices of Hammer and Lockhart carried the night as the band members liberated the full expressions of their instruments.

In addition to presenting the music of Black culture and offering vendor space to Black-owned businesses as well as Granby businesses and organizations, the festival sought to provide education on building relationships across races and to elevate the Black experience. White Granby residents Ellen Thomson and Bill Bentley shared their journeys of understanding Race in America as well as in Granby and the importance of fostering relationship building.

The keynote address for the Juneteenth celebration came from Deacon Art Miller, childhood friend of Emmett Till and Vietnam veteran. He held the attention of the audience with his memories of his friend Emmett and of his experiences of being a Black man in America today. He deeply affected his rapt listeners when he donned his Vietnam Vet baseball cap and stated, “With this on I feel safe.” He then removed the cap revealing the vulnerability he faces as a 78-year-old Black man in his community. With the cap indicating his service to the country he loves he is less of a target for discrimination and potential harm.

Deacon Art Miller, a Vietnam veteran and childhood friend of Emmett Till. Photo by Ken Mouning

There were affirming responses by the Black audience members. Miller also stated, referring to the population of the USA, “We were all freed on Juneteenth.” There is much to unpack in that statement, especially for those raised as members of the dominant White culture.

With Deacon Miller’s words still reverberating, GRR invites the community to “Courageous Conversations on Race at Salmon Brook Park” with “After Juneteenth…What’s Next” July 8 at noon, SBP Pavilion #1. Please go to to find pictures of the Juneteenth events and for further information on the organization.

GRR committee members with Channel 3’s Susan Raff. Photo by Ken Mouning
Sazzy Brass with trombonist Rose Marie Roy, member of GRRs Juneteenth committee. Photo by Jim Watso
Alvin Carter with Sazzy Brass. Photo by Ken Mouning