Signed into law June 17, 2021, by President Joe Biden, the newest federal holiday will be acknowledged for the first time this weekend. Although Juneteenth (short for June 19th) National Independence Day (a.k.a. Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, and Freedom Day) actually falls on Sunday, businesses and schools will observe it on Monday. Former NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill in October 2020 making Juneteenth a state-wide holiday, and this past April, NYC Mayor Eric Adams designated Juneteenth a paid local holiday.
The day off from work is in acknowledgement of when the last enslaved African was released from bondage in 1865, after the legal abolishment of chattel slavery in the United States of America upon President Abraham Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. Since then, the holiday has traditionally been observed on the third Saturday of each June by many, without fanfare.
Locally, there’ll be several events commemorating the federal holiday, with art, dance, education, and music, throughout 5 days of festivities, beginning this Thursday.
On Thursday evening (June 16), at Harlem Stage (150 Convent Ave.), event planner Carl Hancock Rux will moderate a panel discussing “the myths of the Emancipation Proclamation and the truth of modern-day slavery.”
The 13th annual Juneteenth NY seminar kicks off on Friday with an all-day, online webinar detailing the history of Juneteenth and covers various aspects of African Americans’ plight for freedom in this country over the past couple centuries. Then Saturday afternoon, the ‘Celebration of Black Kings Award Brunch’ takes place at Brooklyn’s Vermont Street, and concludes Sunday afternoon with an all-day concert at Prospect Park.
Also on Saturday, the 18th annual Juneteenth virtual summit, concert and festival will be conducted at Brooklyn’s Linden Park, featuring live music performances, food and cultural items during the day. Then on Sunday, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park will stage a live music concert commemorating the occasion.
The Brooklyn Museum hosts an all-day event on Sunday, filled with activities beginning at noon, geared towards Black liberation and creativity.
Sunday morning, at 10 a.m., Brooklyn Bridge Park will hold formal yoga sessions, along with dictation about Juneteenth.
On Saturday and Sunday, Brooklyn’s Weeksville Heritage Center hosts the Jimmy’s Picks by Black-Owned Brooklyn Juneteenth Food Festival.
Sunday evening, midtown Manhattan’s Lincoln Center hosts the “Dream a Dream That Dreams Back At Me—A Juneteenth Celebration” (7 p.m.), featuring rock band Living Colour’s guitarist Vernon Reid, singer Nona Hendryx, musicians Etieenne Lashley and The Collective, Marcelle Lashley, Cedric Burnside, Kiki Hawkins, Patrice Johnson Chevannes, Vincent Fraley, and DJ Belinda Beck (directed by Carl Hancock Rux).
On Monday, with many people off work, some plan to advocate Black unity in their communities, and will also plan local block parties and cookouts.
These are just a handful of events. Check for other local listings.