June 5, 2003
By Howie Mansfield
Since 1988, African-Americans in Syracuse have celebrated their history and culture during the annual Juneteenth festival held in Clinton Square. This year, over 18,000 people are expected to attend the festivities complete with food, family-friendly activities and music.
Father John Schopfer, director of the Brady Faith Center, is a member of the Juneteenth governing board. Father Schopfer has been involved with the board for the last three years and the Brady Faith Center has played a more active role over the last five years. “We are doing our part to support ethnic pride for these people,” Father Schopfer said. “We wanted to do something and we are happy to join in this type of celebration. The youngsters are a part of the parade and we staff a booth downtown along with other churches and non-for-profit groups.”
Mary Bennett of Brady Faith Center said she is glad the center is participating in the Juneteenth festivities. “As a member of the Brady Faith family, we need to be celebrating our heritage, especially for our children. They need to be a part of it,” Bennett said. “It’s a part of the Black community and they are taking pride in where they came from.” This year’s Juneteenth parade theme is “Journey from the Past — History in Motion.” Participants will recognize significant milestones in the African-American culture since 1865. “This event celebrates history, especially the history of Father Brady’s involvement. That’s a part of the African-American community. He was a part of some of the earliest efforts to provide for the spiritual, social and human needs of the people,” Father Schopfer said.
The Freedom Parade begins at 11 a.m. on June 14 and concludes with an interfaith service at noon. Activities downtown include age-appropriate events. New additions to the Juneteenth celebration this year are a Career and College Fair and the “Hoops for Peace” Slam Jam and 3-Point Contest. Other events are scheduled throughout the weekend.