SPRINGFIELD — Joyous celebrations spread out from Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 after Union General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3, which began thusly:
The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.
The day has been time honored for 155 years and has come to be known as Juneteenth, the preeminent day commemorating the freedom of enslaved people in the United States.
Here in Springfield, upon the action of Gov. Charlie Baker, Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and the Springfield City Council, Juneteenth has been added as an official holiday in the Commonwealth and will be observed as a work holiday in the City of Springfield on Friday, June 18.
Springfield Police Department Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood on Wednesday invited some of the department’s police chaplains to Police Headquarters for a conversation about the upcoming Juneteenth holiday. The Rev. James Gill, Pastor of the Harvest Fellowship Church and the Rev. J. Willard Cofield Jr. of the First Baptist Church in Agawam were present and led an informative and enlightening dialogue.
Rev. Gill prepared a presentation on the history and meaning of Juneteenth, including its origin, how the name came to be and how to celebrate Juneteenth respectfully. He also discussed the origins of the Juneteenth flag.
The conversation was held in the commissioner’s boardroom with the entire command staff, supervisory staff, officers of the C3 Mason Square Unit, the SPD community liaison and two of the department’s newest academy graduates.
“There was a nice representation in the room from new to old and that’s how the message gets spread,” Rev. Gill said. “It’s an honor to be a part of a department that is so caring. There was a sensitivity about this, and the Commissioner wanted to understand the significance of the day and to be able to pass that down through the ranks.”
Commissioner Clapprood, understanding that many are still learning about Juneteenth, saw this as an opportunity to learn herself and allow two of the department’s dedicated chaplains to impart knowledge down the ranks of the department.
“I really wanted to listen to our chaplains and get their insights on the holiday. With the city and state officially recognizing Juneteenth this year, I thought this was a good opportunity to have a conversation about not only its history, but the significance of Juneteenth,” Commissioner Clapprood said. “Thank you to Rev. Gill and Rev. Cofield for being so generous with their time and knowledge and spending a memorable morning with the department.”
“I have always supported past Juneteenth events and this is an important and appropriate recognition in our city and nation’s history,” Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said. “I want to thank Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood and our dedicated police chaplains, especially Bishop-Elect Reverend James Gill and Reverend J. Willard Cofield, Jr., for coming together and leading this informative, educational, and respectful dialogue with our brave and dedicated men and women in blue.”