Juneteenth and Buffalo Soldiers

Juneteenth is the day marked for Freedom from Slavery in the United States of America. Our friends at Elmira Economic Opportunity Program are hosting their annual Juneteenth celebration at Ernie Davis Park this Saturday, June 19 from noon to four in the afternoon. The Southeast Steuben County Library, in partnership with Steele Memorial Library, will host a movie night showing Buffalo Soldiers as a Juneteenth Kickoff Celebration starting at 8pm on Friday, June 18, 2021.

This free event will be family friendly and offer an opportunity to gather in unity and positivity as we celebrate freedom as a community. After a long pause of public gatherings, it is refreshing to offer an outdoor movie experience under the stars. Bring your blankets, chairs, snacks and crew down to the library parking lot. We’ll be outside, so layer for the weather. This kickoff celebration is a memorial for William Keith Vaughan who worked for Elmira EOP, made a great impact in the community, and lost his battle to cancer in 2020, just days before Juneteenth.

Keith Vaughan’s legacy continues with a bequest to our library to provide programming focused on Buffalo Soldiers. The request with such a refined focus sparked our creative librarian brains. Children and families were led on a virtual tour of the Buffalo Soldier Museum in March. Teen and adult poetry writers are now invited to submit their poetry to the Buffalo Soldier Poetry contest. The winners of this contest will have their poetry read in a virtual event hosted on July 28, 2021, National Buffalo Soldiers Day.

Rules of the Contest: There will be two submission levels – teen and adult. There will be prizes, including a monetary award and a small physical prize.
1st – $75.00 + physical award
2nd – $50.00 + physical award
3rd – $25.00 + physical award
• The judges for the contest will be Akua Lezli Hope; Karen Alpha; and Wendy Low.
• Submissions should be submitted by July 12. Be sure to indicate if your submission is to be considered in the Adult or Teen category. Submissions should be emailed to Michelle Wells: wellsm@stls.org.
• Michelle will number and send the poems to the judges for blind judging.

• Entrants must live in the five county area of Allegany, Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates.
• Entrants will have until the July 12 to submit their poem.
• The Judges will provide their choices to Michelle, who will make the public announcement of the winners on July 21.
• There will be an online program at 7:00 PM on the evening of July 28th, National Buffalo Soldiers Day, with a brief keynote speech about the Buffalo Soldiers and the winners will read their poems. The event will take place on the Zoom platform, and will be recorded. Please email Michelle Wells to get the Zoom link to join the event live: wellsm@stls.org

We hope to see you this Friday at our movie night kickoff, but you may want to rest your limbs to party all day for the legit Juneteenth Celebration. Many thanks to The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes and the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes for offering the grants that make these programs possible. Our communities deserve these opportunities!

Free Take Home Art Kits for Kids!

There will be plenty of Free Take Home Art Kits for Kids at Juneteenth. The opportunity for artists and makers to teach their craft in a Take Home format gives creative outlet to kids who might not otherwise have the chance to have these supplies in their homes. Find the Freedom Flag kits I made as an artist in the community. Each paint pot and kit was lovingly packed by yours truly.

West Point Military Academy is a destination for any military buff and an uncommonly known location for Buffalo Soldier history. It was my hope to host he Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point at our kickoff, but they are very busy preparing for a new monument this summer. A statue of Sgt. Sanders H. Matthews Sr., known as the last Buffalo Soldier, will be dedicated in September 2021 on West Point’s Buffalo Soldier Field. Sculptor, Eddie Dixon is the talented maker behind this commemorative piece. An amiable man, he said he has made many Buffalo Soldier sculptures over the years for museums and other sites. And he feels an affinity. “Naturally, you would feel an empathy toward soldiers, for the simple fact that I was one.” Plus, “I’m creating unsung heroes,” he said.

Many thanks to all the unsung heroes who have stood for peace, equality, and unity as our community has changed over history. It is an honor to bring memorial to those who have passed, while we lift our spirits to a brighter future. Let’s see Juneteenth become a legal Federal Holiday.

That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll check you on the flip side!

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