JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The Johnstown branch of the NAACP began its nine-day celebration of unity to mark an emancipation anniversary with a music festival Saturday.
This year marks the first day of festivities to kick off the event, and the second with more than a week of events planned to commemorate the Emancipation Anniversary.
Oscar Cashaw, executive director of the Flood City Youth Fitness Academy and promoter of Saturday’s festival, said a connection to black culture over Juneteenth is music, adding that most black performers were preachers first. .
“So bringing music as part of the June 19th celebration and bringing it as a festival-type setting seemed like the right fit and also for the community of Johnstown because we have other ethnic groups who are doing d ‘other ethnic things in the community,’ he said.
He added that as part of the festival there were bands and vendors from places such as South Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Washington DC as well as Johnstown.
According to Cashaw, this was to bring the entertainment to people who had moved to Johnstown from some of these areas as well as local residents who might not have seen these bands and vendors otherwise.
“Now with today’s society and economy, it’s essential with what’s going on in our society, it’s good to have our own activities here in the community so people don’t have not have to travel so far to enjoy it,” he said.
Tom Schuster, secretary of the Johnstown branch of the NAACP, said the week-long celebration has become the organization’s main fundraiser.
“It’s a lot more interactive, there’s a lot more stuff for people to do, there’s a lot for kids to do and I think it’s a good way to introduce the NAACP to the community and also to help fund the work we do throughout the year,” he said.
Francine Cashaw, assistant secretary for the Johnstown branch of the NAACP who helped organize the event on Saturday, said the one-day celebration “just took off.”
“I think the most important thing was the unity we had in the community and all of our partners who joined us,” she said. “I think it will bring the community together.”
Katie Smolen is a reporter for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @KSmolen1230.