African Americans celebrate Juneteenth as federal holiday

Monday, June 21st, 2021 00:00 |
US President Joe Biden. Photo/AFP

New York, Sunday

Like many other places across the United States, hundreds of jubilant African Americans gathered Saturday on the green ground of Roy Wilkins Park in Queens of New York City to celebrate June Nineteenth (Juneteenth) as a federal holiday in the country for the first time.

Though New York State has recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday in 2020, many people came to this kind of community event for the first time. 

On the ground that could easily handle over a thousand people, the scattering crowd and the humid summer day did not hold back the joy and smile on African Americans’ faces.

 The main stage at one end of the ground accommodated a large group of people with traditional music, dances, rap songs, drama and other live performances.

Participants could also join interactive activities like Yoga, art party, African dance class, bingo game, live painting and taking commemorative photos.

Besides, visitors could find food, children’s playground and vendors of beauty supplies, toys, wedding dresses and a few other items. 

The in-person celebrations, guarded by a number of policemen, followed a week-long virtual series of celebrating activities, involving history of Juneteenth, mental health, town hall meeting with local politicians, thematic songs and history of the Great Migration in the United States, according to flyers of the event.

Traditional music

Collette Phillips, who lives nearby and joined the celebrations with her family members, said Juneteenth is about celebrating African Americans’ culture and contribution to the community.

It is “just a way for us to all come together, be together like a family, whether or not we know each other,” Collette said. 

“It’s a good thing giving us an opportunity to celebrate ... It’s definitely good in that they’re finally recognising the fact that we, as a people, deserve the right to be free and to encourage the land of the free,” she said. 

Nicholas Ferguson, another participant, said the event is something nice to do with the family, and “it means a lot.”

Federal holiday

US President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the nation. 

That is a long time coming for African Americans, especially as slavery has been abolished for such a long time, said Donna Hasfal, a local resident. 

“The holiday’s about our victory from slavery. As much as slavery is done, I think it’s still here.

We experience it every day on the job. Everywhere you go, you know people call your kind of name because you’re black,” said Hasfal. 

Hasfal said she hopes Juneteenth could be recognised by a lot more employers, so people could take this day off and celebrate it.  - Xinhua

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