Sunday, June 4, 2023

June tenth celebrations highlight the end of racial inequality

DALLAS ( Associated Press) – After Opal Lee led hundreds in a walk through her Texas hometown to celebrate June-tenth this weekend, the 95-year-old black woman who helped make the holiday a success has gained national recognition, said it is important that people learn the history behind it.

“We need to know so people can be cured of it and never let it happen again,” says Lee, whose 2 1/2 mile (4-kilometer) walk through Fort Worth symbolizes the 2 1/2 years it took after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in the southern states for the enslaved people in Texas to be freed.

A year after President Joe Biden signed legislation to make June 19 the country’s 12th federal holiday, people across the United States gathered at events full of music, food and fireworks. Celebrations also included an emphasis on learning history and addressing racial inequalities. Many Black people celebrated the day just as before any formal recognition.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, commemorates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to order freedom for the state’s addicts – two months after the Confederacy surrendered in the Civil War.

“Great nations are not ignoring their most painful moments,” Biden said in a statement Sunday. “They are confronting them to become stronger. And that is what this great nation must continue to do. “

A Gallup poll found that Americans are more familiar with Juneteenth than they were last year, with 59% saying they knew “much” or “some” of the holiday, compared to 37% a year ago in May. The poll also found that support for making Juneteenth part of school history lessons increased from 49% to 63%.

Yet many states were slow to designate it as an official holiday. Lawmakers in Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and elsewhere have failed to propose proposals this year that would have closed state offices and given most of their public employees paid time.

Celebrations in Texas included one at a Houston park created 150 years ago by a group of previously addicted men who bought the land. According to the conservancy’s website, it was sometimes the only public park available to the Black community in the area.

“They wanted a place where they could not only hold their celebration, but they could do other things during the year as a community,” said Jacqueline Bostic, vice president of the board of the Emancipation Park Conservancy and the great-granddaughter of one of the park’s founders, Rev. Jack Yates.

This weekend’s celebration included performances by The Isley Brothers and Kool & The Gang. In the weeks leading up to Juneteenth, the park hosted discussions on topics ranging from health care to policing to the role of green spaces.

Participants include Robert Stanton, the first African-American to serve as director of the National Park Service, and Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, who grew up in the historic Black neighborhood where the park is located and whose murder by ‘ A Minneapolis police officer two years ago unleashed protests worldwide.

As more people are learning from Juneteenth, “we want to use it and use this moment as a tool to educate people about history and not just African-American history, but American history,” said Ramon Manning, chairman of the board for the Emancipation Park Conservancy.

In Fort Worth, celebrations included the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, named after the Black cowboy credited with introducing bulldogging, or wrestling. The rodeo’s president and CEO, Valeria Howard Cunningham, said children often express surprise that there are real black cowboys and cowgirls.

More young people have become involved in planning Juneteenth events, said Torrina Harris, program director for the Nia Cultural Center in Galveston, the holiday’s birthplace.

Juneteenth provides an opportunity to reflect on “the different practices or norms that contradict the values ​​of freedom” and consider how to challenge those things, Harris said.

Some of the biggest city celebrations from Los Angeles to Chicago to Miami not only touched on the history of slavery in America, but also celebrated Black culture, business, and food.

In Phoenix, hundreds of people gathered for an annual event at Eastlake Park, which was a focal point for civil rights in Arizona. The recently crowned Miss Juneteenth Arizona used her platform to talk about how she felt empowered during the state competition, which is part of a nationwide competition showcasing and celebrating the academic and artistic achievements of Black women.

It’s a “moment to build sisterhood, it’s not about competing against each other for a crown, it’s about celebrating black women’s intelligence and staying true to ourselves,” says Shaundrea Norman (17 ), whose family is from Texas and grew up with knowledge of Juneteenth.

Kendall McCollun, 15-year-old Miss Juneteenth Arizona, said the holiday is about the fight for social justice.

“We have to fight twice as hard to have the same freedoms that our ancestors fought for hundreds of years ago,” she said. “It is important that we continue to fight for my generation, and this day is important to celebrate how far we have come.”

The event featured performances by Kawambe-Omowale African Drum & Dance and speeches by politicians on ways in which residents could get involved in local politics as children received balloon animals and ran through Eastlake Park’s playground.

In New York, Juneteenth was celebrated in its five districts, with events that drew crowds that exceeded organizers’ expectations. In downtown Brooklyn, more than 7,000 people attended a food festival organized Saturday and Sunday by Black-Owned Brooklyn, a digital publication and directory of local black businesses.

Although Juneteenth is a Black American holiday, the organizers of the festival said they were determined to include cuisine and flavors from Caribbean and West African countries. On Sunday, long queues formed from almost every food stall, while a DJ played soulful house music for festively dressed attendees.

“The idea of ​​celebrating Juneteenth around our food culture is especially significant here in Brooklyn, where we have so many black people living here from all over the world,” says Tayo Giwa, co-creator of Black-Owned Brooklyn.

“Tribute to it through our shared commitment in the (African) diaspora is really powerful,” he said.

The event was held at the Weeksville Heritage Center, which before the Civil War was one of the largest Black communities for free people. Attendees were given guided tours of the site, which include historic homes and other structures once inhabited by community founders.

“For a day that is about emancipation, it only makes sense to bring people together in this country and not only feed each other with food, but also spirit and soul, emotion and love,” said Isa Saldaña, programs and partnerships manager for the Weeksville Heritage said. Centre.

“A big part of (Junetien) is about learning to be free and to feel good about doing it,” she said.

Jeffrey Whaley Sr. attended the festival on Sunday with his three children, which was also Father’s Day. The native of Staten Island, New York, said he was hopeful that Juneteenth’s federal celebrations would raise awareness of the Black American story in the US

“As each of us grows, we need to grow in the awareness that we have suffered much longer than they tell us we have,” Whaley said. “It is our duty to our ancestors to make sure that we educate ourselves and improve ourselves in this country, because this country owes us a lot.”

Associated Press authors Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee, and Aaron Morrison in New York City, contributed to this report. Mumphrey reported from Phoenix and is a member of The Associated Press’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her at

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