METHUEN – Last year Juneteenth became a national holiday. This year, on June 18, Methuen Memorial Music Hall was filled with the sound of passionate speeches and music.
“We live in tumultuous times,” said Reverend Nathaniel Burnes, who spoke of the need for unity and positive change. “Why can’t this start in Methuen?”
Mayor Neil Perry spoke about the need to fight racism.
“Children aren’t born to recognize differences,” Perry said. “We have to do better thanks to them.”
“It only takes a small group of people to create change,” said Councilwoman Eunice Ziegler.
Between the speeches there was music by a group of students called Community Strings and a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.
Methuen Police Chief Scott McNamara explained how his department is trying to earn the trust of the community and better represent it.
Among the crowd was Tim Little, who was there with his family.
“I’ve been celebrating it for 15 years,” Little said. “It’s kind of historic and I want to be part of it.” Little said he was excited and relieved when June 19 became a national holiday.
“It was kind of a fight to get a national holiday,” Little said.
Yamet Bernabel was there with his family and two children, who were part of Community Strings.
“I know Juneteenth is a very important holiday, especially because of so many years of slavery,” Bernabel said. “I just think it’s important to bring celebrations like this, given that it’s a country with so much diversity and always so much pain.”