Good news travels fast and often for long distances.
This was the case for both the Juneteenth Festival and the October Artz Festival along Germantown Avenue this past weekend. From Friday through Sunday, the 6300 and 7100 blocks of the commercial corridors in Germantown and Mount Airy, respectively, came alive.
For longtime Germantown resident James Randolph it took his cousin from Willingboro to get an e-mail from Atlanta for him to hear about the festivities.
Randolph brought along his daughter, Alexandra Randolph and his two-year-old grandson James Randolph IV.
His cousin Edward Brailsford brought along his daughter Chrissette of Norristown along with granddaughters Michelle and Larcena Brailsford. So, it was a family affair as they listened to the live entertainment on the Pomona Street and Germantown stage and smelled the aromas of a local fish fry.
“This is a rare opportunity to experience Juneteenth,” James Randolph said. “I always use every opportunity I can for get my granddaughters exposed to anything that has to do with black history and culture.”
Lauretta Tate Crump, the widow of artist Lucian Crump, was outside the family-owned gallery showing off the Juneteenth flag. She said it had the lone star of Texas to represent the slaves in Galveston, Texas. She said that she would have the flag displayed in the window of the Germantown Avenue and Johnson Street gallery all month so the entire Northwest Philadelphia community could see the artifact.
“When you go to a city like Boston they have the flag displayed,” said Crump, who had buttons for sale with the Juneteenth flag. “Yet here in Philadelphia you usually don’t see it. So I wanted to have this at the celebration of the 6300 block of Germantown Avenue. It was organized by Andre Alexander who owns a hair salon up the street.”
Nearby Chef Bernard’s staffer Savon Kirby and event planner Crystal Tomlin were selling freshly squeezed lemonade. Artist Brazzle, who also is a chef among other things, showed off his colorful child-oriented paintings.
“It’s part of my Stop Hate collection and the first time (poet) Sonia Sanchez saw it she bought the whole collection, not just a piece or two, and so did Dr. Cornel West,” Brazzle said.
The history of Juneteenth was on the forefront of the mind of barber Bernard Washington, who has owned Voltaire Hair Cutting on the business strip for more than 17 years. He has lived in Germantown for the past 40 years.
“I suspect that the slaves created the name Juneteenth because they were not sure of the exact date when they learned they were free, likely around June 19,” Washington said. “They were so isolated they didn’t hear the news of the Emancipation Proclamation. When they did they were jubilant. That’s why we’re bringing this life to Germantown Avenue today.”
Similar energy was felt just eight blocks north in Mount Airy. The Burton family opted to park their car midway and walk to each of the events along the cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks of the area. For Michael Burton it was a peaceful way to explore culture, while for his wife, June, it was a way to bring in summer.
“I was so used to going to the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival,” June Burton admitted. “I do miss it. But, at least we have something to replace it on some levels. It’s not as big or doesn’t attract the crowds like that festival. At least coming out here makes me feel summer has begun.”