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Here’s How Some Major Cities Will Celebrate Juneteenth – Black Enterprise

June 19, 2024
A look at Juneteenth events in NYC, L.A., Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.
In the post-George Floyd inspired wave of momentum for Juneteenth to become a national holiday, Juneteenth celebrations have spread far and wide in cities such as New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles. In the three years since Juneteenth became an established national holiday, celebrations in those cities have reflected those cities’ histories.
In New York City, Seneca Village has become a prominent place in the city’s recognition of Juneteenth. Central Park, now a New York City landmark, was essentially built on top of Seneca Village, a pre-Civil War Black community.
“It’s really important for everyone to know that this land wasn’t just Central Park always. It was actually owned by our own people at one point,” Andrew Thomas Williams V, whose ancestor, Andrew Williams, was one of the first to buy land in Seneca Village, told the New York Times last year.
Seneca Village dates back to the abolishment of slavery in New York state, the state legislature passed a law in 1817 that ended slavery and set July 4, 1827, as the date that slavery would officially become illegal in New York. This, as Central Park Conservancy historian Marie Warsh told Patch, gives Seneca Village an important tie to Juneteenth.
“Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery, is also an opportunity to reflect on Black culture, and accomplishments,” Warsh said. “Seneca Village is significant in relation to Juneteenth because it represents the promise of freedom for Blacks in New York, decades before 1865.”
This year’s Juneteenth in Seneca Village celebration features performances from Brianna Thomas, T.K. Blue, and ChinahBlac, reimagined games that children would have played in Seneca Village, and representation from the three churches of Seneca Village: All Angels, AME Zion, and the former African Union Church.
In Atlanta, although Juneteenth is recognized, tradition also holds that a separate acknowledgement of January 1, the day that the Emancipation Proclamation actually went into effect, is celebrated.
According to the Atlanta History Center, in Atlanta, the Emancipation Day celebrations stretched back over 150 years, which puts the first celebrations at approximately 1874. Georgia recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday in 2011, becoming the 36th state in the United States to do so.
In 2024, the Atlanta History Center’s Juneteenth festivities will combine Juneteenth history and America’s national pastime, baseball, through a screening of a documentary on Atlanta Braves legend Henry “Hank” Aaron. Their slate of programming also features an interactive tasting inspired by James Beard award-nominated Nicole A. Taylor’s book Watermelon & Red Birds Cookbook: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebration, and a Juneteenth Bird Walk. 
In Chicago, the festivities around Juneteenth have picked up noticeably since the holiday was made a federal holiday in 2021. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported, Rev. Donald McFadden started the African Awareness and Appreciation Parade to honor Juneteenth in 2014. McFadden’s wife, Sharon, told the paper that what inspired the parade. “We wanted to bring the community together for something positive,” she said. “We hear so much negativity about our community. That’s not who we are. This is who we are.”
McFadden also indicated that before the parade, and before Juneteenth was given its current status as a federal holiday, fewer people in Chicago seemed to know what Juneteenth was when she told them about it. However, another Juneteenth celebration, the Juneteenth Village Fest, also provides a starting point for discussions about race and the history of America.
In Los Angeles, the first celebration of Juneteenth dates back to a celebration that was unceremoniously referred to by the Los Angeles Herald in the Dec. 31, 1874 edition with a short description of “high-toned colored folks” celebrating “the anniversary of their emancipation” on New Year’s Day. 
Although that story, which the Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano noted was unsigned and dismissive in his 2020 column, the archived story is distinctive for marking the beginnings of the celebration of Emancipation Day in Los Angeles. Arellano also noted that Juneteenth or Emancipation Day celebrations have varied across the country. Many places have community celebrations that are analogous of or even contemporaries of Juneteenth. 
Allison Rose Jefferson, a historian with a focus on Black Los Angeles, told the Times that the early celebrations were not really centered around a specific day or specific events. “It was always about the struggle for freedom,” Jefferson said. “Just being together informally was a form of emancipation.” After a while, similar to the practice in Georgia, Jan. 1 became the date that most Emancipation Day celebrations were held on because it also coincided with New Year’s Day. Those early acknowledgements were also rather somber events, often including testimonials from those who had been formerly enslaved, but it wasn’t until migrants from Texas arrived, bringing their joyous celebration of Juneteenth with them, that the holiday started to take off in Los Angeles. 
Marcus Hunter, the chair of African American studies at UCLA, explained to the Times that Juneteenth’s symbolism helped make it the celebration that Black folks in Los Angeles gravitated toward.
“It’s a memory of slavery,” Hunter said. “In a world without social media, how do you find out that you’re free two years after it actually happened? From Black folks, not the federal government.” Jefferson, meanwhile, said that although the celebration has been continually growing since its introduction, it has really ratcheted up over the last 30 years, in part because of its function as a call to action. “It’s a way of calling to our citizens that although this freedom occurred,” Jefferson said, “there’s still some unfinished business.”
Los Angeles’ Juneteenth celebrations are, by nature of the industries surrounding it, star-studded events and can also sustain a decidedly more local flavor. T-Pain will host a Juneteenth Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl which will feature musical guests D-Smoke and Ledisi as well as conductor Derrick Hodge and his Color of Noize Orchestra. A replacement to the abruptly canceled Leimert Park Juneteenth Festival, the Black Family Reunion: Juneteenth Celebration, organized by the Leimert Park Village Merchants Association, will feature live music, local food vendors, and line dancing. 
Washington, D.C., in some ways the epicenter of the push for the nationalization of Juneteenth, has its own history with Juneteenth.
According to Revels DC, the District of Columbia celebrates Emancipation Day on April 16, the date that the sale and ownership of enslaved persons was prohibited in 1862. Juneteenth was later recognized as a second holiday following the declaration of Juneteenth as a national holiday in 2021. But in 1989, the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum held its first Juneteenth Celebration, marked by puppet shows, live music, and food. In 2003, Juneteenth was declared a District of Columbia holiday, and in 2017, Opal Lee completed her walk from Fort Worth, Texas, to the District of Columbia to advocate for making Juneteenth a federal holiday. 
In 2024, the Anacostia Community Museum continues to celebrate Juneteenth. In addition to live music, food trucks, and games on Juneteenth, the museum will offer attendees an opportunity to tour its exhibition, “A Bold and Beautiful Vision: A Century of Black Arts Education in Washington, D.C., 1900-2000.”
The National Archives, located in the nation’s capital, also holds the two documents most central to the Juneteenth story: The Emancipation Proclamation and General Order #3. The latter is the document that Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger read aloud to the newly freed in Galveston, Texas. These two documents will only be on display at the archives from June 17 to June 20. 
RELATED CONTENT: Celebrate Juneteenth 2024 with BLACK ENTERPRISE









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