Celebrating Juneteenth in Philadelphia

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Juneteenth is now an official holiday in Philadelphia. 

An annual celebration marking the end of slavery in the United States, the holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to ensure all enslaved people be freed. This happened more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. 

The holiday is also known as Freedom-Day or Emancipation Day. In 2019, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation designating June 19 as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Pennsylvania and on Tuesday, Mayor Jim Kenney followed suit. Juneteeth is recognized as a holiday in 47 states and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. 

“For many African-Americans, Juneteenth is truly our Independence Day, as it is the day that the unfinished work of the American Revolution – liberty for enslaved Americans – became a reality,” said City Council President Darrell Clarke in a statement. “It is in that spirit that I applaud this declaration by the Kenney Administration that our city, the birthplace of America, should officially observe this day in 2020, and hopefully, for many years to come.”

Philadelphia’s designation was completed using an Executive Order and is for the year 2020. All city offices will be closed to commemorate the holiday this Friday, June 19, and the School District of Philadelphia announced the district will also be closed in observance of Juneteenth. 

“Juneteenth is a day of incredible significance for African Americans and our entire nation, and we are proud to honor this day together as a District,” Superintendent William R. Hite wrote in a letter to employees.

Kenney will meet with the Pennsylvania Juneteenth Initiative and the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium this Friday at Global Leadership Academy, at 5200 Pine Street. At the same location, Philadelphia Juneteenth will host COVID-19 testing from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a Juneteenth celebration and voter registration event will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Face masks must be worn at both events. 

Last year, Philadelphia hosted the largest Juneteenth celebration in the nation with more than 25,000 attendees, 130 vendors and over 2,000 parade participants. Although the 2020 Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade and Festival was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are still plenty of ways to safely celebrate in the City of Brotherly Love. 

Black Lives Matter Philly is hosting Jawnteenth on Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Malcolm X Park, 5100 Pine Street. The celebration will include food, music, marching and more, but organizers strongly urge everyone to wear a mask and practice social distancing during the event. 

MakeBlackCount: 2020 Census and the Black Community will be held Friday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Urban League of Philadelphia. Event coordinators encourage people to get involved and join the conversation on why the 2020 Census is so vital for African American communities and to discuss Black history in Philadelphia and the world. 

“Juneteenth has a unique cultural and historical significance; it symbolizes freedom, represents the triumph of emancipation, and marks a day of reflection,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement. “Now more than ever, it’s critically important to acknowledge America’s original sin of slavery—something we as a nation have never atoned for. 

“The only way to dismantle the institutional racism and inequalities that continue to disenfranchise Black Philadelphians is to look critically at how we got here, and make much-needed changes to the governmental systems that allow inequality to persist,” he added. “This designation of Juneteenth represents our administration’s commitment to reckon with our own role in maintaining racial inequities as well as our understanding of the magnitude of work that lies ahead.”

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