Montclair author gives kids insight into Juneteenth

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The new picture book by Alliah L. Agostini, Montclair resident and author, “The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States » was released ahead of this year’s holiday celebration.

Juneteenth has garnered increased attention in mainstream circles over the past few years. It became a nationally recognized holiday in 2021 and was recognized by the State of New Jersey as a holiday beginning the previous year. Montclair also held its first citywide celebration of June 19 in 2021and another such celebration begins next week (scroll down for details).

The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas to tell enslaved people about the Emancipation Proclamation and their freedom – two months after the war ended calendar and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued emancipation. Proclamation in 1863. Basically it serves as a celebration of the end of slavery in the United States

But Juneteenth has always been a part of Agostini’s life, even as a child. When her publisher, Quarto Kids, approached her about writing a children’s book about Juneteenth, it gave her the opportunity to address a celebration that has always been close to her heart.

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Agostini grew up in Buffalo, New York, in a community that her own grandfather helped introduce to Juneteenth, as co-founder of the city’s festival at 1976. She remembers graced the event before she could even walk. Her book now includes illustrations inspired by that time with her grandparents.

“There are pictures of me as a baby in a stroller on June 19,” she said. everyone is basically going to Juneteenth on some level, especially in the black community. »

But writing a non-fiction children’s book that addressed black injustices in America came with challenges.

“It needed a much more detailed orientation because I had to do a lot more research for non-fiction because it tells people facts about what happened in the story, and I want to make sure that is as accurate as possible,” Agostini said. She listened to recordings of former slaves living on June 1.

“We did a sensitivity reading [a review of a book to help evaluate issues around inclusion, representation and bias] to make sure the book is factually sound, and also that it wouldn’t be read in a way that would be offensive to the parties, because that’s something I’m aware of,” Agostini said. “Even though I’m a black woman, I still understand that I might also have blind spots that I’m not aware of.”

Agostini’s book follows the plight of black people in America from the 19th century to the present day and addresses the relevance of Juneteenth over the years. Using illustrations, she discusses Black Lives Matter protests around the world in the summer of 2020, how the movement raised awareness of Juneteenth, and how it helped get Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday.

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As a resident of Montclair, Agostini credits the city for inspiring her.

“It was nice to be in a place like Montclair, where you know people have the same orientation,” she said. “It’s a relatively liberal city. It’s a diverse city. And I saw how people would rise up.”

Agostini hopes her book will guide parents looking to continue the conversations about race that many believe began or intensified in the summer of 2020, and encourage children today.

“They’re part of the future. And freedom is something we can always take for granted. Freedom is the thing we constantly fight for, and they’re part of that, and we’re making sure we have a generation better informed is something that is really important to me when I write.” said Agostini.

She wants “Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery” in the United States to be a book that parents of all races can enjoy with their children, to teach them about a pivotal moment in history.

“It’s a book about American history,” Agostini said. “I think it’s important for people to remember that and think about it because everybody just kind of wants to put it in the ‘black history box’. It’s a part black-centric history, but black history is also part of the great American and global narrative.”

Montclair residents can purchase “Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States” at Watchung Booksellers and on Amazon.

Juneteenth in Montclair

Jhe Montclair Juneteenth committee presents a week-long series of events from Monday, June 13 to Saturday, June 18 to celebrate Juneteenth.

June 19, a federal holiday, marks the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and recalls a Union general’s June 19, 1865 order proclaiming freedom for Texas slaves.

The events are co-sponsored by the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corp., the Montclair Chapter of the NAACP, Montclair Moms of Color, Fleet Feet, AAPI Montclair, TURN! and mutual aid Montclair.

The schedule:

Monday, June 13: ““Fighting for Freedom.” Dr. Stephanie James-Harris, executive director of the Amistad Commission of New Jersey, will give a virtual talk, “History of Juneteenth,” at 7 p.m. Register in advance here.

Tuesday, June 14: “Release.” Celebrate at home with movie night. Suggested Movies: “”BrainPop: What is Juneteenth and Why Do We Celebrate?” “Children’s March”, “Black-ish”, Juneteenth episode, S4E1, “Black Student Union”, “Glory”.

Wednesday, June 15: “13e Amendment.” Dr. Lillie Johnson Edwards, professor emeritus of African American history and studies, Drew University, will give a virtual lecture, “Slavery by Any Other Name,” at 7 p.m. advance here.

Thursday, June 16: “Black Rebuilding”. June 16 party for children at Nishuane School, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Friday, June 17: “Black Friday.” Support black-owned businesses. Plus, Montclair Community Pre-K – Juneteenth Community Picnic, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., bring a blanket or chair for a picnic, live entertainment, kids’ activities, vendors. Pre-K is at 49 Orange Road.

Saturday June 18: “All about family.” Rand Park, opening ceremony at noon and activities until 5 p.m. Local artists, spoken word, double Dutch, reading books. Bring your drum. Also, at 8 a.m., Fleet Feet Montclair Black History Walk/Run. To register: Fleetfeetmontclair.captyn.com, click Explore, scroll to Juneteenth event.

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