Philly prepares to celebrate Juneteenth

PHOTO: Philadelphia Community of Leaders

Philadelphia’s skyline will light up in the colors of Black liberation this week, and dozens of events will be held around the city to celebrate African American culture in honor of Juneteenth.

The holiday — a blended word from June and 19th — commemorates the day in 1865 when a Union general informed slaves in Galveston, Texas, that they were free as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued more than two years earlier.

Juneteenth was officially recognized as a city holiday for the first time last year by way of an executive order from Mayor Jim Kenney just a couple weeks after Black Lives Matter protests first took to the streets following the death of George Floyd.

Initially, the declaration was for one year; however, Kenney signed an executive order in January to make June 19 a recurring holiday in Philadelphia. It’s been an official state holiday for the past two years.

No parade is planned due to the coronavirus, but people will be gathering at 9 a.m. Saturday for a march beginning at 52nd and Haverford Avenue in West Philadelphia. The program will be followed by an art exhibit at Malcolm X Park.

On Friday, Black Lives Matter Philly is hosting “Jawnteenth” at Malcolm X Park. The event, which will feature food, music, dancing and more beginning at 4 p.m., is “for us (Black people) and by us (Black people),” the group said. Attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair.

Throughout the week, but particularly from Thursday to Saturday, several of the city’s skyscrapers, Boathouse Row, the Ben Franklin Bridge and other sites will light up in red, black and green, the colors of the Black liberation flag.

Philadelphia’s African American Museum will have a full day of outdoor family programming from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, with educational activities, food, vendors and live performances.

The museum, where visitors can take in an exhibit looking at the contributions of African Americans in Philadelphia between 1776 and 1876, will be open for free timed visits from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

People wishing to tour the museum can register in advance by going to aampmuseum.org.

In Germantown, the 15th annual Juneteenth Festival will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the historic John Johnson House, near the corner of Germantown Avenue and Washington Lane. There will be live music, food trucks, historic reenactments and activities for children.

The Mayor’s Office, on Thursday, will be running “ReJUNEvenation,” an event that will include a percussion ensemble, poetry and other cultural expressions beginning at noon at Love Park.

Another city-sponsored event is the “Brothas Stroll Health Walk,” which is aimed at bringing together Black men and boys. The walk, which will also feature games and music, will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Enon Tabernacle Church in the Cedarbrook neighborhood.

Next Monday, at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Film Society, in conjunction with the African American Museum and WHYY, is holding a drive-in screening of “Tulsa: the Fire and the Forgotten,” a new documentary about the destruction of an area once known as ‘Black Wall Street.’

Registration is required for the movie, which will begin at 9 p.m. Go to welcomeamerica.com.

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