Bethlehem Press

Monday, July 13, 2020
“They didn’t tell me we were descended from kings and queens,” says Disley Mendez, a past president of the Black Student Union at William Allen HS. “They didn’t tell me we were descended from kings and queens,” says Disley Mendez, a past president of the Black Student Union at William Allen HS.
Pastor Dr. Greg Edwards of the Resurrected Life Church said Allentown is 71 percent Black, and “The city must now be held accountable for its racist past.” Pastor Dr. Greg Edwards of the Resurrected Life Church said Allentown is 71 percent Black, and “The city must now be held accountable for its racist past.”
Kari Holmes of Allentown shows off her African culture in a colorful blouse and flag. She said she is with the Rising Sun Initiative, which is recording the history of African-Americans in Allentown. Kari Holmes of Allentown shows off her African culture in a colorful blouse and flag. She said she is with the Rising Sun Initiative, which is recording the history of African-Americans in Allentown.
Some of the attendees wore face masks emblazoned “Black Lives Matter.” Some of the attendees wore face masks emblazoned “Black Lives Matter.”
Lehigh County Commissioner Geoff Brace (District 4) at the Juneteenth ceremony in Allentown. Lehigh County Commissioner Geoff Brace (District 4) at the Juneteenth ceremony in Allentown.
PRESS PHOTOS BY DOUGLAS GRAVESThe Reverend Canon Maria Tjeltveit and her daughter, Anna, were among the crowd attending the Juneteenth ceremony. “I’m here to support the African-American community and people of color for the same rights as everyone else,” Anna Tjelvieit said. PRESS PHOTOS BY DOUGLAS GRAVESThe Reverend Canon Maria Tjeltveit and her daughter, Anna, were among the crowd attending the Juneteenth ceremony. “I’m here to support the African-American community and people of color for the same rights as everyone else,” Anna Tjelvieit said.
Jaylynn Lesaine and her mother, Kenoa Askerneese of Bethlehem, join their friend Ashley Blake, right, of Allentown to help prepare food. Jaylynn Lesaine and her mother, Kenoa Askerneese of Bethlehem, join their friend Ashley Blake, right, of Allentown to help prepare food.
1020 Recent William Allen HS graduates and friends at the Juneteenth celebration. From the right: Aahron Abdul, Ramico Rivas Vittini and Disley Mendez. 1020 Recent William Allen HS graduates and friends at the Juneteenth celebration. From the right: Aahron Abdul, Ramico Rivas Vittini and Disley Mendez.
Katrah Jordan and Phyllis Alexander both of Allentown at the Juneteenth ceremony. “This is my community,” said Jordan. “We’re here to celebrate liberation.” Katrah Jordan and Phyllis Alexander both of Allentown at the Juneteenth ceremony. “This is my community,” said Jordan. “We’re here to celebrate liberation.”

Valley marks Juneteenth - ‘People around the world are seeing what people in our backyards refuse to see’

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 by Douglas Graves Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

“They didn’t educate me in Allentown High School about Black people,” said Disley Mendez, past president of the Black Student Union at William Allen. “They said we were slaves and that Martin Luther King came in and saved the day. They didn’t tell me we were descended from kings and queens.”

The recent high school graduate spoke at Resurrected Life Church in Allentown as a crowd of about 125 gathered on the North Ninth Street campus of the church to celebrate Juneteenth.

Originally scheduled for the previous week, the event was postponed due to threatening weather.

Juneteenth memorializes the date of June 19, 1865, when, months after the end of the Civil War, news came to slaves in Texas that they were free. The date now seems on track to gain status as a legally recognized holiday.

The crowd, a mix of Black, Latino and white men and women and children, were mostly wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“We stand at this place at this time to declare: We done dying! We done dying! We done dying!” extolled Pastor Dr. Greg Edwards of the Resurrected Life Church in resonant tones, his voice reaching out to the farthest attendee.

He led the crowd in a call and response chorus recounting the lengthy list of those who have died at the hands of police departments around the country. He ended his litany of names with 23-year old Elijah McClain, the young man who died Aug. 24, 2019, shortly after being in the custody of Aurora, Colorado, police.

“For too long, justice has meant Just Them!” Edwards said.

He said Allentown is 71 percent people of color.

“The city must have a reckoning with its racist past and be accountable for its toxic present,” Edwards said. “People around the world are seeing what people in our backyards refuse to see: Black lives matter.”