The Central Park Conservancy took New Yorkers on an artistic journey Sunday through history for Juneteenth.
In honor of Juneteenth — a federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans — Black history was proudly celebrated on June 19. The Central Park Conservancy crafted a series of stops around Seneca Village on West 85th Street where park goers could pause and learn about the culture.
According to the Conservancy, Seneca Village was a primarily black district from 1825 to 1857 prior to the construction of Central Park. Akin to so many other Black and Brown neighborhoods, the community was moved out and gentrified. However, thanks to Black performers their spirits were brought into the light.
The festivities consisted of seven different locations around Seneca Village underscoring the historical significance through a range of artistic expression with themes exploring education, community, enfranchisement, empowerment, reflection and commemoration.
Since Seneca Village predates Central Park, members of the conversancy believe that those who originally inhabited the area were of African descent.
Performers such as Abdou M’ Boup brought traditional Senegalese sounds to the event, as well as versatile musicians like Ayodele Maakheru and dance performances from Kia Sillman. Each section celebrated Black culture, accomplishments and reflected on the past.
Mayor Eric Adams also stopped by to join in on the festivities. Adams toured Seneca Village and met with parkgoers before giving a speech on the day’s proceedings.
“Imagine being displaced over and over and over again. When this village was torn apart to build this park, we displaced the energy of Seneca Village – it never came back,” Adams said. “We wonder why we see some of the crises that we’re facing in Black and Brown communities, it’s because of the constant displacement. Every time they were able to have a foothold they would be displaced again.”
In addition to the music and other performances, New Yorkers marked the holiday by participating in a 5K Run/walk from 90th Street and 5th Avenue culminated at Seneca Village.