PHOENIXVILLE - Much of the community gathered to mark the borough's second annual Juneteenth celebration with a play at the Colonial Theatre, a downtown "Walk to Freedom" and a party at Andre Thornton Park on Saturday.
A homegrown (locally written and produced) play by Rosalyn P. Sheckleford kicked off the festivities. "Behold the Soul" educated while it entertained.
Viewers got a look at the slavery experience in what organizers referred to as a "celebration of independence of human rights and freedom."
Saturday marked the 139th anniversary of Juneteenth Day, which celebrates freedom and Emancipation Day in remembrance of when Texas slaves learned of their freedom at the close of the Civil War.
"We wanted to communicate a message of tolerance and diversity through our cast - on and off the stage," said organizer Pam Dunn.
Almost three years after the Emancipation Proclamation declared the slaves free, 250,000 slaves in Texas were notified by Union troops of the end of bondage on June 19, 1865. Juneteenth is the oldest celebration which recognizes the end of slavery.
One actor during the play spoke for thousands of recently freed slaves.
"No more auction block for me, no more masters call for me."
Mary Foote, executive director of the Association for the Colonial Theatre said that she had learned of Juneteenth five years ago and "from the start" wanted to be part of any area Juneteenth event.
"We are very proud to be part of the celebration," said Foote.
Connie Bretz talked about the life of baseball star Andre Thornton from the podium and enjoyed the play: "It was a soulful and beautiful dramatic presentation," said Bretz.
County Commissioner Andrew Dinniman said that one reason to celebrate Juneteenth is to "make sure that the American dream is available for everyone."
The play featured much live music and songs. Several actors depicted the work of slaves while soloists and reenactors took center stage.
"They sold our mammas,
They sold our pappas,
They sold our sisters,
They sold our brothers," sang Lorrie Medley, who portrayed a runaway slave.
Medley was also the program's music director.
Nat Turner, portrayed by Kevin Strohman, made an appearance, as well as Harriet Tubman, who was played by Karen Bearden, and who said from the stage that it was the "natural right" for slaves to have liberty and freedom.
Following a march to Andre Thornton Park, Michelle Centino, portrayed a slave by looking to the present day and age for inspiration.
"We are all slaves from something or another and we always have to look up, knowing our freedom comes from God," said Centino.
Alexandria Bricklin portrayed an abolitionist and said that she first learned about oppression from her step-mother, a Holocaust survivor.
"From an African-American perspective, Juneteenth shows that humanity and dignity are important messages and we all have oppressors within us," said Bricklin.
Several bands performed for hundreds of park visitors. A variety of food was available. The event was sponsored by the North Side Community Watch Association.