Several events took place this past weekend around the city in observance of Juneteenth, the nation’s oldest African-American holiday.
While the actual Juneteenth holiday is on Sunday, events and celebrations took place as early as Friday. Juneteenth recognizes June 19, 1865 as the day when all slaves were freed in America. Slaves in Texas had not received word that they were free until two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. There are several theories as to why slaves in Texas got the news so late.
Including New York, Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or state observance in 30 states.
In Harlem, sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted hundreds of people who came out to the 18th Annual Juneteenth Parade and King Fest Celebration on Saturday. The event is put on by the Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque and the Martin Luther King, Jr. New York Support Group.
The day-long celebration started with a breakfast at the mosque honoring the grand marshals for the parade and their families recognized for their work in the community. This year’s grand marshals included Linda Rainy, the Hon. E. Leroy Owens, Jr. and Monique Fortune.
After the breakfast several groups, including winners of Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens, the Woodycrest Center for Human Development, the Ruff Ryders motorcycle club and the Nannie B. Dickerson Westchester Invaders drumline and dance team participated, in a parade around Harlem.
A street fair on 116th Street from Lenox Avenue and Fifth Avenue took place for the remainder of the day that featured various performances, vendors and food after the parade. City Councilwoman Inez Dickens and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer attended the event.
“Juneteenth is getting larger and larger and bigger and bigger,” said event organizer Ade Rasul. “Our people are beginning to realize that this is our day. This is a family day and it brings dignity to us a people. The block is full from corner to corner from all walks of life. We hope to continue to make Juneteenth something that’s going to be major for all of New York City.”
A Juneteenth celebration was also held in Lower Manhattan on Saturday at the African Burial Ground National Monument. Re-enactor Joe Becton did a presentation about the creation of the holiday highlighting the role of African-Americans during the Civil War.
In Brooklyn, the 11th Annual Fort Greene Juneteenth Arts Festival was held in Cuyler Gore Park. The event was presented by Tribal Truths Clothing and Urban Bush Women Dance Company. Festival goers were treated to fashion shows, food and art vendors and dance performances. The event kicked off the Soul of Brooklyn Week which goes on through next Sunday.
City Councilman Charles Barron also held a Juneteenth event on Friday evening at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Brooklyn. The celebration featured Ambassador Tete Antonio, the permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations. African drummers, dances and spoken word performances were also on the program.