Juneteenth celebrations emphasize ending racial disparities

Juneteenth_59738 Opal Lee pushes one of her great granddaughters in a stroller as she waves to musicians playing along the route during the 2022 Opal's Walk for Freedom on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Fort Worth. Lee, often referred to as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth" led her annual two-and-a-half-mile walk, representing the number of years after the Emancipation Proclamation before enslaved people in Texas learned they were free.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_36978 Daisa Chantel kisses Anthony Beltran as they take a picture to celebrate Juneteenth at Leimert Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Juneteenth_78304 Opal Lee arrives to City Hall after walking 2.5 miles across Fort Worth, Texas to recognize Juneteenth on Saturday, June 18, 2022. With hundreds of supporters, Lee walked the 2.5 miles symbolizing the 2.5 years it took for enslaved African-Americans to be freed after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth_Texas_02965 Members of the Acres Homes community wave at horse riders participating in the Mayor Turner's 9th Annual Juneteenth Parade, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Houston.
Juneteenth_Galveston_84978 A visitor takes a photograph of the Absolute Equality Mural, which was unvailed last Juneteenth, with his cellphone, Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Galveston, Texas. Galveston is the birthplace of Juneteenth, but has seen a steady decline in its Black population over the years.
Juneteenth_Celebrations_07118 Pamela Junior, director of The Two Mississippi Museums, speaks about the historical roots of Juneteenth, as she stands before the entrance exhibits to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Thursday, June 16, 2022, in Jackson. Juneteenth recognizes the day in 1865, when the Emancipation Proclamation— which had been issued on January 1, 1863— was read to enslaved African Americans in Texas.
Juneteenth_72090 Hundreds of people marching with activist Opal Lee wave flags and signs on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Fort Worth, Texas. Lee was instrumental in the declaration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Juneteenth_77775 Beto O'Rourke fist bumps a supporter in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, June 18, 2022. O'Rourke marched with Juneteenth activist Opal Lee 2.5 miles across the city in support of the federal holiday.
Juneteenth_55180 Opal Lee, center, cheers as the Juneteenth flag is raised at Fort Worth City Hall at the conclusion of the 2022 Opal's Walk for Freedom on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Fort Worth. Lee, often referred to as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth" led her annual two-and-a-half-mile walk, representing the number of years after the Emancipation Proclamation before enslaved people in Texas learned they were free. Behind Lee are U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, Democratic candidate for Governor Beto O"Rourke and Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker.
Juneteenth_California_21402 The Juneteenth Flag flies over the state Capitol along with the American flag, the California State flag and the POW/MIA flag in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2022.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_16479 Tyler Hamilton, left, and Isaiah Copeland participate at the third annual Juneteenth Drive-Thru Parade at Inglewood High School in Inglewood. Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2022.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_26543 Riders perform motorcycle tricks before the start of the third annual Juneteenth Drive-Thru Parade at Inglewood High School in Inglewood. Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2022.
Mounted members of the Buffalo Soldiers of Seattle historical organization enter the Marketplace vendors' lane to open the Juneteenth Celebration Festival called Omo Africa, on Sunday, June 19, 2022, at Rebecca Howard Park in Olympia, Wash.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_19395 People hold a rally to celebrate Juneteenth commemoration in Inglewood, Calif., on Sunday, June 19, 2022.
Juneteenth_30752 Opal Lee, center, greets walkers before the 2022 Opal's Walk for Freedom on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Fort Worth. Lee, often referred to as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth" led her annual two-and-a-half-mile walk, representing the number of years after the Emancipation Proclamation before enslaved people in Texas learned they were free.
Juneteenth_67974 A family member held a portable fan for Opal Lee during the 2022 Opal's Walk for Freedom on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Fort Worth. Lee, often referred to as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth" led her annual two-and-a-half-mile walk, representing the number of years after the Emancipation Proclamation before enslaved people in Texas learned they were free.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_15604 Los Angeles Rams mascot Rampage, with the Vince Lombardi Trophy in hand, starts as the third annual Juneteenth Drive-Thru Parade's grand marshal at Inglewood High School in Inglewood. Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2022.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_67097 Riders perform motorcycle tricks before the start of the third annual Juneteenth Drive-Thru Parade at Inglewood High School in Inglewood. Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2022.
Juneteenth_39254 Opal Lee, center bottom wearing headband under red and black umbrella, leads hundreds of walkers along Hemphill Street during the 2022 Opal's Walk for Freedom on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Fort Worth. Lee, often referred to as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth" led her annual two-and-a-half-mile walk, representing the number of years after the Emancipation Proclamation before enslaved people in Texas learned they were free.
Juneteenth_61029 Opal Lee, center, bottom, wearing headband) leads hundreds of walkers along Hemphill Street during the 2022 Opal's Walk for Freedom on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Fort Worth. Lee, often referred to as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth" led her annual two-and-a-half-mile walk, representing the number of years after the Emancipation Proclamation before enslaved people in Texas learned they were free.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_47728 Lula Washington Dance Company dancers Danny Guerrero, left, and Kozue Kasahara warm up before the start of a Juneteenth celebrations at Lula Washington Dance Theatre in Los Angeles, Sunday, June 19, 2022.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_61436 Julien James carries his son, Maison, 4, holding a Pan-African flag to celebrate during a Juneteenth commemoration at Leimert Park in Los Angeles Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_47341 Juneteenth themed merchandise is sold at Leimert Park as the holiday is commemorated in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_35500 Reanna Barry, left, from Dominica, the island country in the Caribbean, sells natural products and plants during a Juneteenth commemoration at Leimert Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Juneteenth_Pittsburgh_99481 Darren McCormick, an Alpha Phi Alpha Pittsburgh Chapter member, teaches a handshake to Brian Cook Jr., during the Juneteenth Voting Rights Parade lineup on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Pittsburgh. Cook's father, Brian Cook, is the President of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, who joined Alpha Phi Alpha, Pittsburgh, and Alpha Omicron Lambda, of Pittsburgh University, in support of Sunday's holiday. On Saturday, community groups and leaders marched in the Juneteenth Voting Rights Parade from Freedom Corner to Point State Park.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_06553 Bridgette Brisco sells dresses, umbrellas and hats during Juneteenth celebrations at Leimert Park in Los Angeles Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Juneteenth_Los_Angeles_96095 Juneteenth merchandise is sold in commemoration of the holiday at Leimert Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Juneteenth_Texas_19886 Representation of Joe's Barber and Beauty shop in Acres Homes participate in the Mayor Turner's 9th Annual Juneteenth Parade, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Houston.
Juneteenth_69869 Democratic candidate for governor Beto O"Rourke, bottom right, joins hundreds participating in the 2022 Opal's Walk for Freedom on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Fort Worth. Lee, often referred to as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth" led her annual two-and-a-half-mile walk, representing the number of years after the Emancipation Proclamation before enslaved people in Texas learned they were free.
Juneteenth_Pittsburgh_75563 Members of Willie O'Ree Academy and Pittsburgh I.C.E. sit on the Penguin's float during the Juneteenth Voting Rights Parade lineup on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Pittsburgh. Willie O'Ree Academy, an ice hockey training program for young Black players, and Pittsburgh I.C.E., Inclusion Creates Equality, were invited to ride on the Penguin's float in the parade from Freedom Corner to Point State Park.
Angel McCambry, left, and Na'ilah Bakare pose for a photo during the "Downtown at Sundown" event hosted by the Johnson County Iowa Juneteenth Commemoration, Friday, June 17, 2022, at Chauncey Swan Park in Iowa City, Iowa.
Juneteenth_Phoenix_33879 Miss Juneteenth Arizona Shaundrea Norman, 17, left, and Teen Miss Juneteenth Arizona Kendall McCollun, 15, attend an annual Juneteenth celebration at Eastlake Park in Phoenix on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The event featured dozens of businesses, food vendors and educational opportunities for community members.
Juneteenth_Phoenix_96801 Members of Kawambe-Omowale African Drum & Dance performs during an annual Juneteenth celebration at Eastlake Park in Phoenix on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The event featured dozens of businesses, food vendors and educational opportunities for community members.
Juneteenth_Washington_39547 Mounted members of the Buffalo Soldiers of Seattle historical organization enter the Marketplace vendors' lane to open the Juneteenth Celebration Festival called Omo Africa, on Sunday, June 19, 2022, at Rebecca Howard Park in Olympia, Wash.
Juneteenth_Phoenix_16400 A member of Kawambe-Omowale African Drum & Dance performs during an annual Juneteenth celebration at Eastlake Park in Phoenix on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The event features dozens of businesses, food vendors and educational opportunities for community members.
Juneteenth_Phoenix_90915 Former Democratic state Rep. Reginald Bolding, who is running for Secretary of State, speaks to the crowd about the importance of Juneteenth and how to get involved in local politics during an annual Juneteenth celebration at Eastlake Park in Phoenix on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The event featured dozens of businesses, food vendors and educational opportunities for community members.
Juneteenth_Phoenix_64721 Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego presents a physical copy of the proclamation, which makes Juneteenth a paid city holiday, during an annual Juneteenth celebration at Eastlake Park in Phoenix on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The event featured dozens of businesses, food vendors and educational opportunities for community members.
Juneteenth_Phoenix_56897 People gather at Eastlake Park during an annual Juneteenth celebration in Phoenix on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The event featured dozens of businesses, food vendors and educational opportunities for community members.
Juneteenth_Phoenix_14397 Board member for the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency Michael Johnson poses with members of the community for a photo during an annual Juneteenth celebration at Eastlake Park in Phoenix on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The event featured dozens of businesses, food vendors and educational opportunities for community members.
Juneteenth_Phoenix_57516 Children swing in the playground at Eastlake Park during an annual Juneteenth celebration in Phoenix on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The event featured dozens of businesses, food vendors and educational opportunities for community members.
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DALLAS (AP) — After Opal Lee led hundreds in a walk through her Texas hometown to celebrate Juneteenth this weekend, the 95-year-old Black woman who helped successfully push for the holiday to get 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, whose 2 1/2-mile (4-kilometer) walk through Fort Worth symbolizes the 2 1/2 years it took after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in the Southern states for the enslaved people in Texas to be freed.

A year after President Joe Biden signed legislation making June 19 the nation’s 12th federal holiday, people across the U.S. gathered at events filled with music, food and fireworks. Celebrations also included an emphasis on learning about history and addressing racial disparities. Many Black 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.

“Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments,” Biden said in a statement Sunday. “They confront them to grow stronger. And that is what this great nation must continue to do.”

A Gallup Poll found that Americans are more familiar with Juneteenth than they were last year, with 59% saying they knew “a lot” or “some” about the holiday compared with 37% a year ago in May. The poll also found that support for making Juneteenth part of school history lessons increased from 49% to 63%.

Yet many states have been slow to designate it as an official holiday. Lawmakers in Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and elsewhere failed to advance proposals this year that would have closed state offices and given most of their public employees paid time off.

Celebrations in Texas included one 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 the Black community, according to the conservancy’s website.

“They wanted a place that they could not only have their celebration, but they could do other things during the year as a community,” said Jacqueline Bostic, vice chairwoman of the board for the Emancipation Park Conservancy and the great-granddaughter of one of the park’s founders, the Rev. Jack Yates.

This weekend’s celebration included performances from The Isley Brothers and Kool & The Gang. In the weeks leading up to Juneteenth, the park hosted discussions on topics ranging from health care to policing to the role of green spaces.

Participants included Robert Stanton, the first African American to serve as director of the National Park Service, and Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, who grew up in the historically Black neighborhood where the park is located and whose killing by a Minneapolis police officer two years ago sparked protests worldwide.

As more people learn about Juneteenth, “we want to harness that and use this moment as a tool to educate people about history and not just African American history but American history,” said Ramon Manning, chairman of the board for the Emancipation Park Conservancy.

In Fort Worth, celebrations included the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, named for the Black cowboy who is credited with introducing bulldogging, or steer wrestling. The rodeo’s president and CEO, Valeria Howard Cunningham, said children often express surprise that there are real Black cowboys and cowgirls.

More young people have become involved in planning Juneteenth events, said Torrina Harris, program director for the Nia Cultural Center in Galveston, the holiday’s birthplace.

Juneteenth provides an opportunity to reflect on “the different practices or norms that are contradicting the values of freedom” and consider how to challenge those things, Harris said.

Some of the largest city celebrations from Los Angeles to Chicago to Miami not only touched on the history of slavery in America, but also celebrated Black culture, business and food.

In Phoenix, hundreds of people gathered for an annual event at Eastlake Park, which has been a focal point for civil rights in Arizona. The recently crowned Miss Juneteenth Arizona used her platform to speak about how she felt empowered during the state pageant, which is part of a nationwide competition that showcases and celebrates the academic and artistic achievements of Black women.

It’s a “moment to build up sisterhood, it’s not about competing against each other for a crown, it’s about celebrating Black women’s intelligence and staying true to ourselves,” said Shaundrea Norman, 17, whose family is from Texas and grew up knowing about Juneteenth.

Kendall McCollun, 15-year-old Teen Miss Juneteenth Arizona, said the holiday is about the fight for 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.”

The event featured performances by Kawambe-Omowale African Drum & Dance and speeches from politicians about ways residents could get involved in local politics as children received balloon animals and ran through Eastlake Park’s playground.

In New York City, Juneteenth was celebrated across its five boroughs, with events drawing crowds that exceeded organizers’ expectations. In central Brooklyn, well over 7,000 people attended a food festival organized Saturday and Sunday by Black-Owned Brooklyn, a digital publication and directory of local Black businesses.

Although Juneteenth is a Black American holiday, organizers of the festival said they were intentional about including cuisines and flavors from Caribbean and West African countries. On Sunday, long lines formed from nearly every food stall, while a DJ played soulful house music for festively dressed attendees.

“The idea to celebrate Juneteenth around our food culture is particularly meaningful here in Brooklyn, where we have so many Black folks who live here from across the world,” said Tayo Giwa, co-creator of Black-Owned Brooklyn.

“Paying tribute to it through our shared connection in the (African) diaspora, it’s really powerful,” he said.

The event was held at the Weeksville Heritage Center, which was one of the largest Black communities for freedmen before the Civil War. Attendees were given guided tours of the grounds, which includes historic homes and other structures that were once inhabited by the community’s founders.

“For a day that’s about emancipation, it only makes sense to have people gather on this land and feed each other not just with food but also spirit and soul, emotion and love,” said Isa Saldaña, programs and partnerships manager for the Weeksville Heritage Center.

“A big part of (Juneteenth) is about learning to be free and feeling okay doing that,” she said.

Jeffrey Whaley Sr. attended the festival with his three children on Sunday, which was also Father’s Day. The Staten Island, New York, native said he was hopeful that federal observances of Juneteenth would increase awareness of the Black American story in the U.S.

“As each of us grows, we have to grow in the consciousness that we suffered a lot longer than they’re telling us we did,” Whaley said. “It’s our duty to our ancestors to make sure we educate ourselves and better ourselves within this country, because this country owes us a whole lot.”

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Associated Press writer Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee, and Aaron Morrison in New York City, contributed to this report. Mumphrey reported from Phoenix and is a member of The Associated Press’ Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her at https://twitter.com/cheymumph.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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