Juneteenth Events Stress Music, Learning, Healing

Education is needed so people 'never let it happen again,' says activist Opal Lee, 95
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 19, 2022 4:25 PM CDT
Juneteenth Events Stress Music, Learning, Healing
Daisa Chantel kisses Anthony Beltran as they take a picture to celebrate Juneteenth at Leimert Park in Los Angeles on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

After Opal Lee led hundreds in a walk through her Texas hometown to celebrate Juneteenth, the 95-year-old Black woman who helped successfully push for the holiday to receive national recognition said it's important that people learn the history behind it. "We need to know so people can heal from it and never let it happen again," said Lee, per the AP, whose 2½-mile walk through Fort Worth symbolized the 2½ years it took for enforcement in Texas of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery in the Southern states. Juneteenth became a national holiday last year.

Americans across the country gathered this weekend at holiday events filled with music, food, and fireworks. Celebrations included an emphasis on learning about the past and addressing racial disparities. Many people celebrated the day just as they did before any formal recognition. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, commemorates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to order freedom for the enslaved people of the state—two months after the Confederacy had surrendered in the Civil War. A Gallup Poll found that Americans are more familiar with the day than they were last year, with 59% saying they knew "a lot" or "some" about the holiday, compared with 37% a year ago. The poll also found that support for making Juneteenth part of the history taught in schools increased from 49% to 63%.

One celebration was at a Houston park created 150 years ago by a group of formerly enslaved men who bought the land. At times, it was the only public park available in the area to Black people, according to the conservancy's website. In Fort Worth, celebrations included the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, named for the Black cowboy credited with introducing bulldogging, or steer wrestling. More young people have become involved in planning Juneteenth events, said Torrina Harris of the Nia Cultural Center in Galveston, the holiday's birthplace. In Phoenix, hundreds gathered at Eastlake Park, a focal point for civil rights in Arizona. Kendall McCollun, 15-year-old Teen Miss Juneteenth Arizona, said the holiday is about social justice. "We have to fight twice as hard to have the same freedoms that our ancestors fought for hundreds of years ago," she said. "It's important we continue to fight for my generation, and this day is important to celebrate how far we've come."

(More Juneteenth stories.)

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