Updated: Jul 7
We are fortunate to live in a time of expanding social and cultural awareness, with conversations regarding racial inequity of the past and present dominating the national stage. President Biden’s recent signing of legislation designating Juneteenth as a federal holiday is an example of the progress that can come from these conversations.
Now, with Juneteenth National Independence Day finally getting the recognition it deserves, communities throughout the country are reflecting on the meaning of the day, the contributions of Black Americans throughout the country’s history, and the injustices they continue to face.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is recognized as the oldest national celebration of the end of slavery in the U.S. It originated in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, when it was officially announced that all enslaved people in Texas had been freed. The day came more than two years after the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Despite the Proclamation, the Union did not have enough presence in Texas to enforce the new law, preventing thousands of enslaved people from seeing the freedom they deserved.
Today, Juneteenth is both a national commemoration and an opportunity for all of us to educate ourselves on the centuries of oppression Black Americans have faced, from the era of slavery to more recent injustices. However, Juneteenth is also a celebration.
Juneteenth is intended to be a day of celebration, of recognizing the resilience of a community and its rich culture. In this spirit, New York City is offering a vibrant roster of events—from concerts and movie screenings to marches—hosted by cultural centers throughout the city.
Part solidarity march, part 5K run, the Juneteenth 5K and BBQ will span Highbridge, Jackie Robinson, St. Nicholas, and Morningside Parks in Washington Heights and Harlem.
Taking place at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, this screening of the famous “Summer of Soul” documentary is free and open to the public, which will be able to see and learn about jazz legends in the same park where much of the documentary was filmed.
Presented by the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in partnership with the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Kevin Powell—a renowned journalist, poet, and civil rights activist—will perform a suite of original poetry alongside music by the Suffolk Experience.
For more information on Juneteenth, its history, and its future as a federal holiday, visit this page.