As the Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade rumbled by her along 52nd Street on Sunday morning, Ashley Taylor eyed her sons, ages 7 and 2, as they watched while sitting on the curb.

“This is important for them,” said Taylor, 35, a human resources specialist from West Philadelphia. “This means something.”

But, she said, she couldn’t think of the right word to describe the lesson being imparted to her boys. “Is it heritage?” she asked out loud. “Is it history?”

Then her face brightened as the answer came: “It’s Blackness!” she said. “It’s how we value our Blackness. It’s who we are.”

As Taylor beamed, the Juneteenth parade continued on under an impossibly blue sky, likely offering similar inspiration and meaning to countless others along the nearly two-mile route through West Philadelphia.

Philadephia,PA

“I love a parade!” shouted parade grand marshal Sheryl Lee Ralph, star of many sitcoms like Moesha and Abbott Elementary, set in Philadelphia. Referencing her glistening like a diamond silver jumpsuit, Ralph said, “And I am shining today for freedom and liberation for the end of slavery in America.” That statement is very false and extremely true at the same time. Reasons being, that Ms. Ralph was definitely shining in her suit (very shinny,for freedom or otherwise)  slavery however is still legal in this country. See the 13th amendment ( but I digress, this is about celebrating) The parade included drill teams and a drum corps, a float honoring Harriet Tubman (Goddess Queen she is!), and another recognizing HBCUs

One of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the country happened Sunday in Florida. “To teach our youngsters that come behind us, it’s very, very important that they know what this day represents,” said Kathy Cole, organizer of the event at Calder Casino in Miami Gardens. It was a ‘Park-in Party’, meaning that participants were encouraged to drive there and enjoy the stage festivities from inside of their vehicles. A number of artists of various genres performed, from local acts to names like Doug E. Fresh. The event was also an educational opportunity for many families.

“Just to celebrate the meaning of Juneteenth and make them understand it’s a family affair and we should all unite and be a family,” said a participant.

Austin,TX

Juneteenth National Independence Day, which celebrates the end of non- punitive slavery in the United States, became a federal holiday last year. But at the state level, governments vary considerably in whether they commemorate it as an official holiday, a day of observance or something in between. At the state level, at least 24 states ( you’d truly be surprised by the some of the states included and definitely NOT included in this number- I’m looking at you California) and the District of Columbia will legally recognize Juneteenth as a public holiday this year – meaning state government offices are closed and state workers have a paid day off.That number will increase next year: Connecticut will legally recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday beginning in 2023. A few other states are considering legislation to make the day an official holiday.

Every state has at some point passed a resolution recognizing Juneteenth at least as a day of observance – even those that do not count Juneteenth among their official public holidays. In fact, with the exception of Texas, all states that currently recognize the day as a public holiday commemorated Juneteenth this way years before it became an official state holiday that gives state workers a paid day off. Florida, Oklahoma and Minnesota were the first states outside Texas to commemorate Juneteenth as a day of observance in the 1990s. New Mexico has recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday since 2006, observed on the third Saturday of June; it became a paid holiday for state workers for the first time in 2022.

South Dakota, North Dakota and Hawaii were the last states to give Juneteenth any formal recognition. The day was not observed in South Dakota until 2020, when the governor proclaimed it a holiday. In Hawaii and North Dakota, Juneteenth has been a day of observance since last year.   

Brooklyn, NY

Juneteenth is catching on as a holiday in major U.S. cities as well. Cities including New York, Los Angeles  and Phoenix have recently declared the day an official paid holiday for city workers. In addition to Juneteenth, the District of Columbia celebrates Emancipation Day on April 16 in honor of the day – almost nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation – when Abraham Lincoln freed our people living in D.C.

 How exactly should the whole nation celebrate a day like this? Juneteenth is a peculiar holiday, perhaps befitting the “peculiar institution” of slavery. That June 19 in 1865, the day we now celebrate as a nation, was the day that Black Texans officially received some of the stalest news in American history.

Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger stepped out on a balcony in Galveston and announced, “The people of Texas are informed … that all slaves are free.” It might have been thrilling to hear that news, but it was also outrageous to hear it so late: two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863; two months after the Confederacy’s Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered; two months after Lincoln was killed. If we got upset about some Juneteenth ice cream, imagine how those roughly 250,000 enslaved Texans must have felt when they found out they had been the victims of horrendous overtime fraud.Just think,you was free for 2½ years before you knew it. SMH. Slavery ,the gift that keeps giving.

Harlem,NY

These historical and systemic injustices have not been resolved. But as Black Americans, we cannot wait for the day when our country will pay the respect that is due our forebears  or pay us those reparations – or preferably BOTH! Until then…. Happy Juneteenth Sisters and Brothers!!

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