Nationwide Events Mark Juneteenth

Commemorations include joyful parades, solemn artwork
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2021 5:10 PM CDT
Nationwide Events Mark Juneteenth
Opal Lee, 94, leads the walk toward downtown during the first nationally recognized Juneteenth holiday on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.   (Amanda McCoy/Star-Telegram via AP)

There were solemn moments during Juneteenth observances Saturday, as crowds across the country marked the holiday for first year it's had federal recognition. Terrence Floyd unveiled a statue of his brother George in Brooklyn, USA Today reports, telling the crowd, "My brother was the sacrifice, so I need y'all to continue to pay attention and keep my big brother's name ringing in the ears of everyone." But there also was straight-up celebration. "Given the last year of trauma, brutality, and grief that the Black community suffered on a daily basis, it is essential to our survival that we make moments for joy, for love, and for celebrating our resilience," said Ryan Sorrell, an organizer of an event in Kansas City, Missouri, per the AP. Artwork played a large part in the commemoration of the end of slavery in the US, along with parades and concerts. Juneteenth events included:

  • A 2.5-mile walk in Fort Worth, Texas, led by Opal Lee. The 94-year-old, who watched President Biden sign the bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday this week, began walking in 2016 to build support for the holiday. Among Saturday's similar walks inspired by Lee was one in Pacoima, a Los Angeles neighborhood, per KABC. "This country is not where it used to be," said a minister and relative of Lee's at the Pacoima event, "but it has a long way to go to where it can be."
  • A repainting of artist Hubert Massey's year-old "Power to the People" message on a block-long stretch of Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit. The "o" in "Power" is a red fist, added in memory of George Floyd and other victims of police violence, Massey said. "We did the original," said a 15-year-old. "It's important that we return and share that same energy."
  • The unveiling of public art Friday evening in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. "Monumental Reckoning" has 350 statues representing the first people kidnapped in Africa in 1619 and brought to this country to be enslaved.
  • The dedication of a 5,000-square-foot mural, "Absolute Equality," in Galveston, the origin of the Juneteenth celebration.

  • A ceremony in Bristol, Rhode Island, marking the placement of a marker telling the role the port played in the slave trade. A mansion built by a slave trader now hosts the Linden Place Museum, where the marker was installed.
  • Joe Kings' yearly barbecue in Portland, Maine, which includes children's activities. Kings' great-great-great-grandmother was enslaved. This year's barbecue was "a little bit more celebratory knowing that it's official," Kings said of the holiday, per the AP. "I'm not saying we were in the closet about it, but now it's more widely recognized—and more importantly understood."
In a speech Saturday, the Rev. Al Sharpton offered a caution. "The celebration of Juneteenth is not a party," he said, adding, "The way to deal with Juneteenth now is to deal with where race is in 2021." (More Juneteenth stories.)

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