DC Mayor Bowser kicks off Emancipation Day celebration

Crowds gather for the Emancipation Day D.C. celebration at Freedom Plaza. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Crowds gather for the Emancipation Day D.C. celebration at Freedom Plaza. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Crowds gather for the Emancipation Day D.C. celebration at Freedom Plaza. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Crowds gather for the Emancipation Day D.C. celebration at Freedom Plaza. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Dwayne Lawson-Brown, also known as the “Crochet Kingpin,” crochets himself into a cocoon. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

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On Saturday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser kicked off Emancipation Day in the city with a big party at Freedom Plaza.

“Happy Emancipation Day everybody,” Bowser said as the crowd cheered.

The celebration started with a parade along Pennsylvania Avenue followed by a free concert at Freedom Plaza, featuring performances by CeeLo Green, Junkyard Band, Crystal Waters, Slick Rick, DJ Kool, Dior Ashley Brown, and The Filthy Animals.

The event also featured the D.C. Statehood Food Truck Palooza, which included gourmet hot dogs, soul food, pizza, ribs, Mexican food, and other treats.

“What we’re celebrating today everybody is 160 years of D.C. emancipation,” Bowser said. “Eight months before the entire nation was emancipated … enslaved Africans living in America could find their way to freedom,” Bowser said.



D.C. Emancipation Day honors the day President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill that ended slavery in the District of Columbia, which gave freedom to more than 3,100 persons who were enslaved in the area.

Emancipation Day became an official holiday for Washington, D.C., in 2005.

“We are the first for many things in Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said.

Calvin Butler, who attended today’s event, said the day is an important one to celebrate.

“I’m a Washingtonian born and raised. And I need to be here. I’m supposed to be here. We weren’t supposed to be slaves,” Butler said.

Yvonne Somerville from Prince George’s County said, when she heard about the festival, she knew she needed to be there.

“I wanted to come out and support this very significant event,” Somerville said. “And for the sun, and the music and the love that’s here today.”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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