DC throwing dayslong celebration during Emancipation Day weekend

Recent years have seen D.C. turn Emancipation Day into a bigger and bigger celebration; and this year, the celebration will be so extravagant that it’s going to spill into a second day, from Saturday into Sunday this weekend.

Emancipation Day marks the day slavery was abolished in D.C. back in 1862, and the city celebrates the day with a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue followed by a concert and fireworks at Freedom Plaza. Scheduled performers this year include Dru Hill, Black Alley, Rakim, JJ Hairston, Alex Vaughn, Sin Miedo, Kyaira Ware, DJ Diyanna Monet, and the Nationals Capital Chapter Jack & Jill Inc.

“Free, free, free, free, free, all of these festivities are free for everyone,” said Latoya Foster, of D.C.’s Office of Cable TV, Film, Music and Entertainment.

For the first time ever, this will be a two-day event, with the second day moving to Black Lives Matter Plaza, which has also never hosted Emancipation Day events before.

“We’re going to have fitness in the morning,” with a giant yoga class held by D.C.’s Department of Parks and Recreation in the middle of 16th Street between H and I (streets) in Northwest that Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. with more performances there Sunday afternoon.

“It’s going to be a lot of entertainment,” Foster promised.

On Saturday, April 15:

  • Kicking off at 2 p.m., the District’s Emancipation Day Parade will start down Pennsylvania Avenue between 10th and 14th streets NW
  • At 3 p.m. will be the Emancipation Day Concert, hosted by WUSA9’s Lesli Foster and Lorenzo Hall, will feature musical performances by Dru Hill, Rakim, Black Alley, and other artists. The concert takes place in Freedom Plaza at 1455 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Later that night at 8:30 p.m., there will be a fireworks display also at Freedom Plaza.

On Sunday, April 16:

  • At 9 a.m., OCTFME and the Department of Parks and Recreation will host Family Fun Day at Black Lives Matter Plaza. The day will consist of family-friendly activities, live music, games, food trucks and much more.

On Monday, April 17:

  • At 10 a.m., the Mayor’s Office on African American Affairs will cap off the festivities with an Emancipation Day celebration at the Smithsonian National Museum of the African American History and Culture, featuring live performances, guided discussions and a special menu provided by the museum’s food court, the Sweet Home Café.

Registration is required for all events and can be done online.

In years past, Emancipation Day events have brought thousands of people downtown to celebrate, and Foster expects that to happen again this year.

“We know that this year will not be an exception to the rule,” Foster said. “It’s going to just be family fun for everyone, and we’re so excited about it.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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