An incredible day of fun and community!

More than 100 smiling people from the Greater Baltimore One Water Partnership joined Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake on June 19th at Leakin Park for an impactful Juneteenth Solstice Celebration. “I love this event!” said one post event survey respondent. 

We began with our attention on the spiritual meaning of the solstice, as shared with us through the meaningful offering of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address Greetings to the Natural World“ by Peter Brooks. Peter continued the tradition of his grandfathers by educating people in the lost wisdom and ways of the first people of the Americas. Translated as "The Words Before All Else," Peter's Address embodies how an event like this would have commenced in an alternate reality where colonialism never occurred, and we stood on the ancestral lands of the Piscatway Tayac in Southern Maryland. It signifies the profound significance of starting with these words, representing the cultural heritage and loyalty to the indigenous community, undisturbed by the impact of colonial history.

Charlie Dugger, retired Baltimore City Public School teacher and beloved community leader, offered remarks and reflection on the history and the significance of Juneteenth.
 He discussed the importance of education and dignity born from the good work of our African American ancestors. New to the event this year was “Mama Angie”,  a storyteller and member of The Griot Circle Of Maryland who offered an interpretation of a Texas slave learning about their newborn freedom. Many commented on just how impactful her reenactment was. We were also joined by Darin Crew from Blue Water Baltimore and Pastor Brian Bordley from One More One Less who offered fishing lessons to participants of all ages.

Additional activities included a forest therapy walk with Ted Martello from Baltimore City Recreation and Parks, as well as a photo walk led by Rose McNeill. There was even a native plant garden tour given by Peggy Cummings from Friends of Gwynn Falls Leakin Park (FOGFLP) and Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Dorothea Lankford from Church of the Redeemer and Wendy Hall from Columbia Jewish Congregation. Folks pitched right in to help weed the substantial on-site pollinator garden-taking immediate action to help care for Creation. Jamila Keita (Yarabee Love) offered a yoga session on the beautiful Winan’s Meadow. Folks enjoyed learning some local history as told by Dana Chou who guided a cemetery tour. John Marra from Blue Water Baltimore led a bug hunt -- it was such fun to dig in the dirt! We were additionally blessed by African Drummer Charles Nixon, as well as Peter Brooks’ native drumming and singer, Allen Garnes, who serenaded us with spiritual tunes about freedom and nature throughout the event.

We truly appreciate the grant from the Afram that supported the event, Baltimore Rec & Parks for providing the shuttle bus, and all the organizations that had information tables. A special thanks to the core team of volunteers from IPC’s Partner Congregations Mount Lebanon Baptist Church’s Green Team (Bev Anderson and Tanwa Suma), Pastor Brenda White from Allen AME Church, Zach White, and Bridgett McCusker who are part of a dedicated group from FOGFLP to coordinate this a great event. Another huge thanks to a myriad of other volunteers who helped with parking, registration and so many key details. It would not have happened without everyone’s efforts.

This shows the power of the One Water Partnership to bring the faith community together to celebrate both freedom and sunshine! 

We are already planning next year’s celebration, so mark your calendars for Wednesday, June 19th in 2024! If you want to offer your time and talents to help us please come to our first organizing meeting at the park on Monday, September 18th. Contact [email protected] with questions or sign up today!