Juneteenth honored at Round the Bend with poetry, history lessons

Jun 19, 2021

Along with the usual Open Farm day traditions of tours and food, Round the Bend Farm expanded its educational efforts as social worker/author Iva Brito helped kick off the farm’s first in-person Juneteenth celebration — a day which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. 

“She’s an amazing woman,” Round the Bend Farm Executive Director Desa Van Laarhoven said.

Juneteenth was first celebrated in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. Union soldiers, in the aftermath of the Civil War, informed some of the last enslaved people there of their freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation.

“A lot of people did a lot of work for today to happen,” Brito said. “To celebrate the legacy of these ancestors is very important.”

For the holiday storytime, Brito read through a few books highlighting Black culture, history, and stories that show “we are all phenomenal.”

“I love to inspire children and share these stories,” she said. “The more they can understand these concepts and get embedded into who they are, that will impact them as future leaders.”

The New Bedford-based author also highlighted influential Black figures who rose above adversity such as Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, and Ruby Bridges through poems from her 2016 book “Essence, Tones, Whispers and Shouts.”

“I was intentional about that,” Brito said. “Make things fun, but have that meaningful piece to it.”

Van Laarhoven noted that the farm officially recognized the holiday last year. 

“The board voted it in unanimously,” she said. “We believe and value diversity — that’s one of our core tenets.”

With restrictions now lifted, the farm could now properly host a forum that could also inform the region’s youngest residents about the significance of the day.

“As a culture, we really need to celebrate it,” Van Laarhoven said.

New Bedford resident Hianula Monteiro said she really appreciated the reading. Originally from Cape Verde, Monteiro added that celebrations like this will help her four-year-old daughter Aviih see more examples of Black excellence.

“This helps her get a sense where she stands and how we can move forward,” she said.

Van Laarhoven said that celebrating Juneteenth is just one of many small steps in having the team at her farm become more diverse and understand the histories of underrepresented groups.

“There are systems that are so entrenched that it’s tough to rip them down,” she said. “But we need to continue the work, and we will do so.”