Juneteenth held special meaning for the late Poughkeepsie community leader Theodore “Tree” Arrington. He hosted a celebration each year for six years via his nonprofit children’s organization R.E.A.L. Skills Network before passing last April.
Today, the City of Poughkeepsie held a Juneteenth celebration at Mansion Square Park in his honor.
The holiday marks the day the emancipation of slaves became official on June 19, 1865.
This year marks the first celebration since it became a federal holiday.
It also marks the first year since New York state recognized the official end of slavery in the United States.The state declared Juneteenth a holiday last October.
His widow, Sharon Arrington, stated that her late husband held this event in previous years with little to no fanfare. She remarked at how this year’s event was better than ever.
“He did this for six years. No one came out to support him, I don’t know why,” she said, “but it is lit this year.”
Cleopatra Jordan, a former mentee of Arrington’s who now works at R.E.A.L. Skills Network, also remarked at the significance of a more widely recognized celebration.
“It is wonderful it is now recognized as largely as it is,” she said,
“but we want to continue to inform the community about Juneteenth.”
Family Services CEO Brian Doyle, a friend of Arrington’s who shared an office building with him for 13 years, said that one of the lasting things Arrington taught him was the meaning of the holiday.
“It was from Tree that I learned the real significance to Juneteenth,” he said. “I am happy we are doing this.”