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Juneteenth memorial service to reclaim the truth, honor for Addy

By Joanne Beck
Sharon Burkel with Addy gravestone
Sharon Burkel, president of Batavia Cemetery Association, shows the gravestone of Adeline "Addy" Barbara, a slave who lived in Batavia in the mid-1800s. In honor and celebration of Juneteenth, there will be a memorial service for Addy at 10 a.m. Monday at the cemetery, 65 Harvester Ave., Batavia. Photo by Howard Owens.

When the Rev. Shiela Campbell McCullough, pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church, learned of Batavia’s cultural history, she was surprised, to say the least, about one particular person who lived and died here.

Her name was Adeline “Addy” Barbara, as listed in the 1850 census. Her gravestone, weathered and worn, bears the etching of her burden from age 4 until she died at 50: “faithful colored servant.”

“I never thought about it here in Batavia until (City Historian) Larry Barnes unearthed it, and then he published his findings (in the book “History by the Hearth”). And then it was not until Mike Stuart … brought it to my attention I had no knowledge of this, and when Mike met me at the cemetery to show me the marker, it was overwhelming. I was so full of pain,” McCullough said during an interview with The Batavian. “I’m a grandmother, and at that time, my granddaughter was four years old. And I just could not even imagine someone treating her like that. And the mere thought that just a four-year-old child was snatched from her mother, and I put my daughter in the place of her mother. I mean, in my mind, it was just, that was painful. And the only thing I could do is to lay some flowers at her marker.”

Turns out that’s not the only thing she could do. McCullough and members of Batavia First Presbyterian Church, including the Rev. Roula Alkhouri and her husband Mike Stuart, and Batavia Cemetery Association will not only remember Addy and celebrate her life during Juneteenth’s Freedom Day at 10 a.m. Monday, but will also reclaim the narrative from those words so horribly skewed on the gravestone, McCullough said.

A faithful servant? “That’s not the truth,” she said.

“Honoring Addy is paramount in certain form and fashion, but we’ll be pointing out the truth, and being her voice: no, no, no, I didn’t have a voice in the matter. I was a slave,” McCullough said.  “It’s a celebration of her life, but more than just her life, her humanity. To be a slave, especially in America, meant you were sub-human, which meant the animals had more value than you.”

McCullough thinks about that fragile child and all of her “little girlness.” She would have been attending preschool in present day America instead of doing chores and being stripped of her family, her rights, choices, and future.

Another action that organizers will take in her name and spirit is to restore the marker, not to destroy any of the history, the reverend said, but to enhance it and, again, “reclaim the narrative” with scripture affirming Addy’s spiritual worth in the eyes of God versus how she was undervalued by her human owners.

The graveside service to honor Addy is to begin at 10 a.m. Monday at the Historic Batavia Cemetery, 65 Harvester Ave., Batavia.

Addy, Batavia slave, gravestone at Batavia Cemetery
Photo by Howard Owens.

She lived from 1807 until she died Jan. 28, 1857, according to the marker, Batavia Cemetery Association President Sharon Burkel said, and lived with the family of Episcopal priest Rev. Lucius Smith.

“She’s listed right in the census with them in 1850 … We don't know a whole lot about her,” Burkel said. “We had thought for many years, because that section of the cemetery is where the first plots were laid out in 1823, that was the part where a lot of the people buried in there were from St. James Church and the Presbyterian Church. They owned the cemetery initially.”

This service is a reminder of the importance of recognizing and confronting the legacy of slavery in our society, organizers said. All are welcome to attend and pay their respects. 

It’s an important part of Batavia’s history, and people might want to attend to acknowledge our shared history, McCullough said.

“To acknowledge that we have a responsibility to make this world a better place for the generations that come behind us to begin to see our shared history, as also the type of legacy that we're leaving behind,” she said. “At least I do, I want to leave my granddaughter with the truth of who she is, where she comes from, which includes being an American in this country. I want her to know all the ins and outs, the good and the bad. I want her to know.”

Creative Communities joins Just Kings for a jam-packed Saturday in Batavia

By Joanne Beck
2022 Just Kings event
2022 File Photo of Just Kings Juneteenth Celebration, by Howard Owens.

What began four years ago as a grassroots effort to celebrate the end of slavery has this year drawn city and county organizations into the mix for a community-wide gathering of food, arts, crafts, activities, educational and wellness materials, entertainment, and lots of fun on the city’s north and south sides.

That’s what happens when Juneteenth, hosted by Just Kings, meets up with the city schools’ Creative Communities: Interactive Health Fest. It began when Community Schools Coordinator Julia Rogers began discussing possibilities of a collaboration with Just Kings members.

“It's important that when we as a community are planning events, we try to work together.  As many know, we tend to have many events on the same day in our community, so I wanted to make sure that everyone had the chance to attend both,” Rogers said to The Batavian.

Both events happily fit into one another’s schedules, with Creative Communities first set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Robert Morris School, 80 Union St., Batavia.

“Our interactive event will focus on local artists sharing talents with Batavia students, their families, and the community. We are encouraging Batavia community members to focus on whole body health: physical, mental, social and emotional,” Rogers said. “The difference between this and past events is, in addition to Go ART!, we have partnered with Just Kings, the Suicide Coalition of Genesee County, and the Madeline Bartz Mission, Inc. Families will be able to visit various agencies who have tables at the event, including Rochester Regional's Teddy Bear Clinic and the Batavia Lions Club's Vision Screening. 

“They will have the chance to visit our Heart of Kindness Center (formerly the Community Closet), have a chance to win prizes, and most importantly, learn various ways to stay healthy,” Rogers said.

Integral to this program has been a free bus service, which will pick up and drop off students and families throughout the day at designated school locations from 8:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Buses will then be available to transport families to the Just Kings event beginning at 1:45 through 4:45 p.m. For details and the full bus schedule, go HERE

That’s where the second half of the day fits into this partnership. Just Kings will be hosting its annual Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration from noon to 8 p.m. at Williams Park on Pearl Street, Batavia.

Greg Monroe and fellow Just Kings members were thrilled to join forces with Rogers for a jam-packed day full of activities, he said.

“It means more people, which is just awesome,” Munroe said. “They had their health fest going, and they pitched their idea to us. I say the more the merrier, celebrate Juneteenth with us. It’s a celebration of the end of slavery, and a day that everyone can celebrate.”

There will be arts and crafts, food and nonprofit vendors at the park, a DJ, an African dance troupe, and Buffalo recording artist Marchon Hamilton II performing at 3 p.m. 

Just Kings will have a booth with brochures and history about the significance of the date — June 19, 1865 — and its designation as Jubilee, or Freedom or Liberation, Day, to mark the end of slavery in the United States.

Saturday is only the beginning of this joint effort, and “collaboration is the key” in moving forward, Rogers said.

“Everyone is part of the Batavia community, and coming together to support one another in any way possible is the best way to be role models to our children. Greg Munroe, a member of Just Kings, has been very helpful in getting the word out about both of our events,” she said. “The Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Madeline Bartz Mission, Inc. also helped develop the idea, and our Community Schools subcommittee (made up of local and state agencies) got the ball rolling.  We are very lucky to be in a community that wants to work together.”

Just Kings barbecue
2022 File Photo of a Just Kings barbecue, by Howard Owens.

Just Kings vendor liaison Lydia Bruce worked with Rogers so that attendees will be able to get a $2 voucher toward food at the Just Kings event. Ever been to a Just Kings chicken barbecue? Organization members line up the grills and have that tangy-charred smell of barbecue in the air just waiting for passersby who may find it hard to resist.

Bruce said that there are about 15 vendors signed up to participate so far, and she appreciates the opportunity for them — whether nonprofits or businesses — to let the community know what they offer.

“This is the first year we’re doing that tag team (with community schools), and everyone can attend both events,” Bruce said. “I think it's going to be an awesome day.”

This event is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the NYS Council on the Arts with the support of the office of the Governor and NYS Legislature and administered by Go Art! 

Photos: Juneteenth Celebration in Austin Park

By Howard B. Owens


Batavia's Just Kings Social Club hosted their third annual Juneteenth Celebration in Austin Park on Saturday.

Juneteenth commemorates the day -- June 19, 1865 -- that Federal troops forced the traitors in Texas to free the last of their still captive slaves, ending slavery as practiced in the United States up to that time. President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in the still rebellious, traitorous states with the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. Slavery would become unconstitutional with the passage of the 13th Amendment in December 1865, fulfilling the promise of the Declaration of Independence that all people are created equal with the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

The first Juneteenth celebration by Black Americans was held on June 1, 1866.  It became a state in 2020 and a federal holiday in 2021.

Since Juneteenth this year falls on a Sunday and Father's Day, Just Kings held their celebration on Saturday.









Photos: Juneteenth celebration at Williams Park

By Howard B. Owens


Sponsored by the Just Kings Social Club, Batavia's Juneteenth celebration is taking place in Williams Park today. The celebration of freedom continues until 7 p.m.










Juneteenth celebration set for Williams Park in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

The Just Kings Social Club of Batavia will host its Second Annual Juneteenth on Saturday, June 19 from noon to 7 p.m. at Williams Park.

The event will include vendors, food, a talent show for ages 8 to 16 (with cash prizes), a bounce house, dunk tank, other fun and games, and live music. 

There will also be a guest speaker.

Live music performers include Ratiboy YN, Ray Williams, Mark Lee, Molotov Mall, King & Drizzy, Brenda Williams, Dolly Man & King Beans, Yikey Mikey, Shun-Della Williams, and Debbie.

Everybody is invited. The park is located at 101 Pearl St. in the City of Batavia.

Juneteenth is the traditional day to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States.

The organizers are looking for more volunteers to help with the event and there is still space for vendors. All local businesses are welcome to participate. Volunteers get free food and drinks.

Those interested in volunteering, contact Brandon Armstrong on Facebook or at (585) 536-6576. Vendors can contact Lydia Bruce on Facebook or at (716) 573-3461.

Juneteenth celebration at YWCA going on until 7 tonight

By Mike Pettinella



Dionna Thomas, in top photo, sells tickets for the door prize raffles while others enjoy a ride on the horses this afternoon during the Juneteenth celebration promoted by the Just Kings Social Club at the YWCA of Genesee parking lot at 301 North St., Batavia.

The event, which also is featuring live entertainment and a chicken barbecue, will run until 7 p.m.

Photos by Mike Pettinella.

VIDEO: The first day of the first-ever Juneteenth celebration in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
Video Sponsor
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The four local men who organized the March for Justice in Batavia on June 7 have joined together with eight more local residents to form Just Kings Social Club to help promote racial equality in the city. Friday, they hosted their first event at the YWCA: Day one of a two-day Juneteenth celebration.

Today (Saturday), the event starts at noon and runs until 7 p.m. There will be food and beverages, live entertainment, as well as vendor booths.

The YWCA is located at 301 North St., Batavia.

The end of slavery in the United States is not marked by one single date.

Juneteenth evolved out of the cooperation of June 19 in Texas, the day slaves were freed in the former rebellious state in 1865, two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in territory still held by Confederates.

It wouldn't be until December 1865 that the 13th Amendment was ratified banning slavery in the United States. Many believe the struggle for equality and liberty for black Americans has yet to be fully realized.

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