Song of celebration for Juneteenth festival and parade

June 2, 2017

Looking to build on the momentum of last year’s Universal Juneteenth Parade and Festival in the heart of the city, local planners, hoping to see the holiday become nationally recognized, are adding a theme song that they believe will help turn the dream into reality.

This past Wednesday night at the social media kickoff/press conference at His and Hers Restaurant located at 216 South Street, the Philadelphia Community of Leaders (PCOL), spearheaded by music legend Kenny Gamble and community activist Rahim Islam, introduced “No Longer Bound.”

The song features the vocals of Philadelphia soul/jazz singer Barbara Walker. Walker is probably best known for her work in the 1980s with Philly jazz group Pieces of a Dream. She is best known for her vocals on the 1981 hit “Warm Weather.”

“It is a warm mix of jazz, R&B and gospel that will really attract people to the sound,” said Kofi Asante, a member of PCOL. “It was written by some real heavyweights – Alfie Politt, formerly the musical director for Teddy Pendergrass, James Solomon, a writer with over 30 years of experience, and Walter Sorell, a gentleman who is very well known in the world of gospel music.”

A CD is planned shortly that will feature the song and a narrative that describes Juneteenth. It will be sold for $10 with proceeds going to the movement to make Juneteenth a nationally recognized holiday. Juneteenth marks the freeing of slaves in Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865, two years after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Philadelphia’s Parade will be held on June 17th. The Parade route will begin at Washington Square, formerly known as Congo Square) and will culminate with a festival art the African American Museum located at 701 Arch Street. It will feature drummers, floats, high-stepping bands, stilt walkers, and dancers that represent African culture.

“We want this event to grow with each year,” said Gamble, who estimated that close to 10,000 attended last year’s parade. “Historically, the celebration of Juneteenth’s focus has been education and self-improvement. It makes sense for an organization like PCOL to sponsor the event.

Wednesday’s gathering on South Street was very festive. Drummers in traditional African garb sat shoulder-to-shoulder on sun-splashed South Street, the folks outside swaying to the music before going inside. Attendees were also treated to the high stepping of a drill team.

When the program began, Congressman Dwight Evans spoke for about five minutes, stressing, like Gamble did, the importance of making Juneteenth a nationally recognized holiday.

Before the night ended, the song was played and so was a video that chronicled the making of the song.

“A lot went into making that song, just like a lot is going into the movement to make Juneteenth a nationally recognized holiday,” gamble said. “it’s a movement that is going to continue to gain momentum. Juneteenth represents the empowering of our community in so many ways.”