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Middlesex County Welcomes Historic Icon Dr. Opal Lee to Commence Juneteenth Festivities

County along with partners to host a series of events throughout June to commemorate Juneteenth and freedom for all. Residents encouraged to participate in the month-long celebration

Post Date:05/29/2024

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ – Middlesex County will welcome 2024 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dr. Opal Lee, heralded as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” on Friday, June 7, to kick off a month of exciting events to commemorate and educate residents on the importance of Juneteenth, Black history in the County and the preservation of freedom for all people. Dr. Lee propelled the recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, enacted officially in 2021. New Jersey’s status as one of the early states to declare it a paid holiday in 2020 and the rich Black roots in this region are a few of the many reasons Dr. Lee has selected Middlesex County to visit and explore.

Dr. Opal Lee’s arrival will kick off a series of celebrations to honor her tireless advocacy for civil rights and other African American cultural programming through June, these events include both private and public events:

  • Friday, June 7
    • 2 pm: Private, invite only—Dr. Lee will visit and tour East Jersey Old Town Village in Piscataway, hosted by Middlesex County Arts Institute
    • 7 pm: Juneteenth Freedom Fund Gala hosted by NAACP Metuchen, Edison, Piscataway Branch at Edison Job Corp | 500 Plainfield Avenue Edison, NJ 08817 | Keynote speaker, Dr. Opal Lee | Open to the public, for tickets click here
  • Saturday, June 8
    • 12-7 pm: Juneteenth Freedom Day Celebration at Edison Job Corps hosted by NAACP MEAB branch and Edison Township | Grand Marshal Dr. Opal Lee | Musical performances and speeches | Free and open to the public, for more information click here
  • Sunday, June 9
    • 3-4pm: A Conversation with Dr. Opal Lee: Advice from the Greatest Gen to Gen Z | Piscataway Library, 500 Hoes Lane, Piscataway, NJ | Free to Public | Free and open to the public, to register click here
  • Saturday, June 15
    • 1:30-4 pm: Lost Souls Public Memorial Project at East Brunswick Community Center | Keynote speaker, County Commissioner Chanelle Scott-McCullum | 721 Cranbury Rd, East Brunswick, NJ 08816 | Free and open to the public
  • Wednesday, June 19
    • 4 pm: Board of County Commissioners Juneteenth Flag Raising and celebration with NAACP New Brunswick branch | Bayard and Elm streets for flag raising ceremony and Monument Square Park at 2 Livingston Ave. in New Brunswick for festivities | Free and open to the public
  • Saturday, June 29
    • 2-6 pm: FolkLIVE: Gospel Music Festival hosted by the Middlesex County Arts Institute |Headliners Hezekiah Walker and Jekalyn Carr plus many leading gospel singers | Monument Square Park in New Brunswick | Free and open to the public, for more information click here

“Middlesex County is one of the most diverse counties in the nation,” said Commissioner Director Ronald G. Rios. “There is no greater honor than to have a living legend and freedom fighter, Dr. Opal Lee, choose Middlesex County for her first-ever visit to New Jersey. This will go down in our County history. Dr. Lee’s visit inspires us and it validates that our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives in the County is making a difference.”

"We enjoy freedom today because of the sacrifice and dedication of civil rights leaders before us,” said County Commissioner Chanelle Scott-McCullum. “Dr. Opal Lee fought for the Juneteenth federal holiday, so this sacrifice will never be forgotten. I am humbled to welcome her to our diverse and colorful County and excited for the community to experience the real meaning of Juneteenth."

“The Metuchen-Edison-Piscataway Branch of the NAACP is deeply honored to welcome Dr. Opal Lee, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and living Civil Rights legend, as the keynote speaker for our June 7th Gala and the Grand Marshal for our June 8th Festival,” said President of the Metuchen Edison Piscataway Branch of the NAACP Reginald Johnson. “As we celebrate, we must reflect on the pivotal 13th Amendment that abolished slavery and remain vigilant against any threats to our freedoms. I encourage everyone to join us in celebrating the rich and resilient African American culture and history.”

These programs are being provided by the NAACP MAEB branch and the Arts Institute of Middlesex County with grant funding from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund, established by the Board of County Commissioners. Additional support for these events is provided by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. With a strong tradition of supporting arts, culture, and history, Middlesex County aspires to reach all County residents through these funded programs and directly through virtual and in-person programming provided and supported by the Arts Institute of Middlesex County.

Dr. Opal Lee has praised the local MAEB branch of NAACP for its deep and longstanding support of Juneteenth, specifically 24 years of celebrating and educating the public on the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States.

Upon her arrival, Dr. Opal Lee will be immersed in Middlesex County’s rich past at East Jersey Old Town Village in Piscataway with a tour led by County historian Mark Nonestied. There, she will learn about the unique Black history of the County, view art exhibits, and meet a group of African American historical interpreters who are a mainstay of this historic village and free museum in the County. Dr. Lee’s visit to the East Jersey Old Town Village is the beginning of a weekend-long extravaganza that will conclude with book readings at local schools in Piscataway and New Brunswick.

For more information about Dr. Opal Lee’s tour and Middlesex County’s Juneteenth events, please reach out to the Middlesex County Office of Communications, middldesex.communications@co.middlesex.nj.us and visit MiddlesexCountyCulture.com.

FOR PRESS & MEDIA ONLY: to secure and coordinate interviews with Dr. Opal Lee, County Commissioners, and talent including Hezekiah Walker, Jekalyn Carr, and others throughout Juneteenth month, email: middlesex.communications@co.middlesex.nj.us

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