NYC marks Juneteenth, days after it's made a federal holiday

Photo credit Kristie Keleshian

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Events marking Juneteenth were taking place across the city on Saturday. The day has been marked by New Yorkers for years, but this is the first time since it was recognized as a federal holiday.

In Brooklyn, a Juneteenth rally was taking place on the steps of the Brooklyn Library at Grand Army Plaza after a statue of George Floyd was unveiled at Flatbush Junction. A celebration was also taking place at Cadman Plaza Park in downtown Brooklyn.

A Juneteenth festival was being held at Herbert Von King Park in Bedford-Stuyvesant as well. This was the 12th year that Athenia Rodney has organized the event. This year's theme is entrepreneurial excellence.

Photo credit Kristie Keleshian

For Rodney, Juneteenth being recognized as a holiday is huge but not enough. She wants to see more education and awareness surrounding its significance.

“Because for me, a holiday is just something that’s going to end up just being another day that people go and set up for a barbecue, they forget the meaning, they forget the purpose of what the day is actually for,” Rodney said.

Nicole Clare came to the festival with her 3-year-old daughter, Autumn. She wants to use the day as a history lesson for her.

“Tragic history, right? It’s a really disturbing history. I think I want to focus more on not forgetting it and not forgetting the importance in the context of American history. And I think it’s a super interesting, important time right now,” Clare said.

Sabrina Jean-Baptiste. Photo credit Kristie Keleshian

Sabrina Jean-Baptiste, a therapist, started Black and Extraordinary Designs, which promotes mental health and wellbeing through art and therapeutic activities.

Jean-Baptiste said the holiday being recognized is a step.

“This is a start. This is a start,” she said. “We’ve got to keep pushing. We’ve got to push through. I want everybody to acknowledge it, our schools, like stop throwing away a major history. Like we need to know this. And I love how the younger generation are seeing it and being part of the movement.”

Saturday's events came after President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a bill into law making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. That was also about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Kristie Keleshian