Juneteenth Festival in Elmont to celebrate civic diversity


Elmont’s fourth annual Juneteenth Festival, set for June 15 at the corner of Elmont Road and Village Avenue looks to offer a unique opportunity to celebrate the community’s cultural diversity.

Nikki Long, member of the Elmont Cultural Center and organizer of the event, said that the festival is important because it unifies the community and is an opportunity to educate young people about being Black.

“Having a Juneteenth celebration, in anybody’s neighborhood, in anybody’s community, allows people to research — something that we don’t kind of do anymore,” Long said.

She added that the festival, a free event that will run from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. allows neighbors to ask what the celebration means and investigate its importance to grow more familiar with Black history.

“You can use Juneteenth as another one of those platforms to kind of learn a little bit more,” Long said. “And maybe that will stop a lot of stigmatisms that are out there — especially stereotypes about African Americans and Black people. And we want our voices to be heard, and I think that’s what Juneteenth as a whole kind of means to me.”

“To have something in Elmont that we can call our own and (use) to unify and celebrate and bring everyone together because at the end of the day, we don’t have a lot of events in Elmont that represent us and there are so different, diverse cultures, so many beautiful people in Elmont,” Long said

The festival will have something for everyone with a wide array of food, shopping, games, raffles, performances and more.

Tamar Paoli-Bailey, Elmont Cultural Center event coordinator, believes the festival can promote local small businesses. Paoli-Bailey wants people to come out and explore the various food options and try different foods from many different cultures.

The food bazaar will have a variety of options with more than 10 vendors selling Puerto Rican, Haitian and soul food. There will also be Philly cheesesteaks, burgers, tacos, Louisiana-style snow cones and more for neighbors to explore.

Attendees will have the opportunity to shop from a mobile thrift store and booths that will sell home goods, self-care items and more. Kids will be able to have fun with bounce houses, face painting and photo booths during the festival.

Performances will last the length of the festival and include a live painter, dance, and drum performances. Some performers include The Ross Boys, Warren Wint, Brodie Fresh, the Elmont Community Choir, The Djembe Boys, Perfection Dance Center Dancers, One Take Cater, Phonetic Wisdom, Poet Stars, Seja and surprise performances.

Art created by Elmont Memorial High School students will be displayed inside a tent on a projector. Students from the Elmont Memorial Key Club will also be volunteering at the event.

The festival is organized by Elmont Cultural Center and the Elmont Alumni Network Eagles. Sponsors include Empire Voices, 1199SEIU Funds, the Rick Miller Foundation, McDonalds, New York Offshore Wind Alliance, New York Communities for Change, You’re Our Unity and Rocks Entertainment.

The Rick Miller Foundation will give out free toiletries and groceries from Whole Foods, and frozen meals from Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Cava and Chick Fil A during the festival.

The Juneteenth festivities are not just a free community event, but a way to take note of and honor those who have done so much for the community. Honorees include the McRae family, Petra Brathwaite, Kirk Morris, and Greg Senat.

The McRae family has deep ties in the Elmont community, going back three generations to William McRae and his wife, Mary Lou McRae, the founding president of the Jamaica Square Civic Association. Their family is still honoring their love for Elmont with their continued involvement in the community.

Brethwaite is the owner of Perfection Dance Center and has been a dance teacher in Elmont for 40 years. Morris is the owner of Platinum Cuts, a barber shop in the community. Greg Senat was an offensive tackle for the Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs who grew up in Elmont.

Paoli-Bailey reflected on the history of Elmont and the holiday, mentioning that up until the 1980s the school district was still segregated.

“This holiday originated in Texas, and it celebrates some of the last groups of people in the United States that were freed from slavery that did not know that they were free,” she said. “(The slaves) had been emancipated and they were still working because no one told them they were free. And so this is all about celebrating being free.”

Paoil-Bailey believes the festival will allow people “to understand now that this is a very diverse community with people from all over the world and far how Elmont has come,”

For more information about the event, visit TheElmontCulturalCenter.org.