On June 19th, Americans throughout the country will observe a historic holiday known as Juneteenth. Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States and promotes pride and solidarity for all African Americans.

Though  Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation technically ended slavery in 1863, it wasn’t until the arrival of federal troops in Galveston, Texas two years later that all enslaved people were officially notified of their freedom. Upon hearing this news, celebrations broke out among newly freed Black people. To celebrate this joyous day, African American communities began to annually celebrate the end of slavery in America with music, community get-togethers, and other activities, and Juneteenth emerged as the longest-running African American holiday.

 While this holiday has been recognized in African-American communities for centuries, it has recently gained greater respect and attention throughout the nation. In 2021, President Joe Biden officially signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. This act made Juneteenth a federal holiday, finally giving it the recognition that it has deserved since its origins in 1865.

Juneteenth is now an annual day of celebration that includes parades, music, food, and more. Cities like Houston, Atlanta, and Philadelphia celebrate Juneteenth in a major way. For years, these cities have been commemorating the holiday by putting on huge celebrations that highlight Black vendors and artists. In Houston, celebrations take place at Emancipation Park – a 10 acre lot that was purchased in 1872 by a group of freed people to celebrate Juneteenth. The annual festivities include a music festival, a parade, and a 20-mile Freedom Ride that showcases Houston’s most historic African American communities.

 Along with National celebrations, there are dozens of great events that are taking place in and around Madison! On Saturday, June 18th, Kujichagulia Madison Center for Self-Determination is holding its annual Juneteenth in the Park event. This event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Penn Park and will include a kick-off parade, music, children’s events, and more. Be sure to check out this event as well as other local celebrations leading up to Juneteenth!

As a country, America has made great strides in recognizing Juneteenth and supporting African American pride, but the fight towards racial equity is not over yet. People of color are still discriminated against in America and racism is still present in a multitude of ways. While one individual cannot change this culture alone, it is every person’s responsibility to become educated on racial issues in our country and how the goals of equity and equality may eventually be met.To learn more about racial equity and how you can support the movement, check out these local organizations dedicated to the cause:

Learn more about culturally sensitive programs and services that promote healthy aging for older adults at https://www.cityofmadison.com/senior-center or find us on Facebook

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