Thursday, March 23, 2023

Juneteenth celebration calls for an end to racial inequalities

DALLAS ( Associated Press) — Opal Lee led hundreds through her Texas hometown to celebrate Juneteenth, the 95-year-old black woman who helped successfully push for the holiday to gain national recognition, said That it is important that people know the history behind it. ,

“We need to know that people can recover from this and will never let it happen again,” said Lee, the 2 1/2-mile (4-kilometer) walk from Fort Worth to President Abraham’s 2 1/2. Symbolizes the time after 2 years. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to free enslaved people in Texas to end slavery in the southern states.

A year after President Joe Biden signed legislation making June 19 the country’s 12th federal holiday, Americans across the country gathered at events filled with music, food and fireworks. The celebrations also included an emphasis on learning about history and addressing racial inequalities. Many people celebrated this day as they did before any formal recognition.

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

“Great nations do not ignore their most painful moments,” Biden said in a statement on Sunday. “They face them to get stronger. And that’s what this great nation should keep doing.”

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

Yet many states have delayed designating it as an official holiday. Lawmakers in Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and elsewhere failed to pursue proposals this year, forcing state offices to close and most of their public employees paid time off.

Ceremonies in Texas were built 150 years ago in a Houston park that was formerly bought by a group of slaves in land. At times, it was the only public park available to blacks in the area, according to the conservation’s website.

“They wanted a place where they could not only celebrate themselves, but they could also do other things as a community during the year,” said Jacqueline Bostic, vice president of Liberation Park Conservation for the board and great-granddaughter of one . Park’s founder, Rev. Jack Yates.

This weekend’s festivities included performances from The Isley Brothers and Kool and the Gang. In the weeks leading up to Juneteenth, Park discussed topics ranging from health care to the role of green spaces in communities of color to policing.

Participants included Robert Stanton, the first African American to serve as director of the National Park Service, and Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, who grew up in the historically black neighborhood where the park is located and who was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. was done. Two years ago protests broke out around the world.

As more and more people learn about Juneteenth, “we want to use this and this moment as a tool to educate people about history, not only African American history but American history,” said Ramon Manning, chairman of the Liberation Park Conservation Board.

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

More youth have become involved in planning Juneteenth events, said Torina Harris, program director for the Nia Cultural Center in Galveston, the birthplace of the holiday.

Harris said Juneteenth provides an opportunity to “consider various practices or norms that are contrary to the values ​​of liberty” and consider how to challenge those things.

Some of the biggest celebrations in America not only touch on the history of slavery in America, but celebrate black culture, businesses, and food.

In Phoenix, hundreds gathered for an annual event in Eastlake Park, which has been a focal point of civil rights in Arizona. The recently crowned Miss Juneteenth Arizona used her platform to speak about how she feels empowered with her fellow black women across the state, which is part of a nationwide competition designed to educate black women. and exhibits and celebrates artistic achievements.

Saundria Norman, 17, said, “This is a moment to build brotherhood, it’s not about competing against each other for a crown, it’s about celebrating the wisdom of black women and staying true to themselves.” is about.” ,

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

“We have to fight twice as much to get the same freedom as our ancestors fought hundreds of years ago,” he said. “It is important that we keep fighting for our generation, and this day is important to celebrate how far we have come.”


Associated Press writer Kimberly Krusey in Nashville, Tennessee contributed to this report. Mumphrey reports from Phoenix and is a member of The Associated Press’ Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him at

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