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Photographer David Burnett
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More than one spectator, fond of this old industrial city which has had its trials the past three decades, said “this is the best parade we’ve had here in 20 years.” The turnout was solid, from high school marching bands to fire departments, police, civic and religious organizations; all of it led by a band of pipers whose soulful music careened off the century old homes on West Street.
Newburgh is a town which has had its challenges, ...
Newburgh is a town which has had its challenges, as the once proud city of industry has fallen victim to a loss of the economic base, and at the same time, seen a rise in unemployment and crime. It is a city in motion, with an increasing Latino population living alongside long-time African-American and white communities.
But Monday’s Memorial Day parade seemed for a time to give all these groups a chance to mix, mingle, and salute an Armed Forces which in many ways reflects the diversity of the city. Since World War I, some 800 men from Newburgh have given their lives in battle. As if by magic, small American flags appeared on the sidewalks of Broadway — the widest street in New York State. It’s an avenue, once full of charm and elegance which has seen the kind of decay that has chastened so many inner cities.
Yet today, those small flags were in the hands of everyone who calls Newburgh home. And with the beginning of a hoped-for renewal of the city, there were no groups apart. Everyone waved and cheered as if they were at the Macy Thanksgiving Parade in a crowd of a million revelers. The smiles were as broad as Broadway itself. The flags waved wildly, and young people by the dozen made videos of the excitement with their mobile phones.
The cheers went up as the marchers passed by, and at the end, as those voices now fall silent with the dwindling crowds headed home, a small feeling of community was once again given a chance to grow. To flourish. To sustain itself.
TEXT and PHOTOGRAPHS by David Burnett / facingchange.org
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