NEW YORK — On Saturday, several city blocks in different boroughs were transformed into festivals in honor of Juneteenth.
Gatherings served as countdowns to Monday’s federal holiday, established last year.
A Freedom Festival turned East New York‘s Linden Park and its surrounding streets into a maze of music, dance, food and crafts, wrapped up in a vibrant Juneteenth banner.
“It is a holiday. We are celebrating that, yay!” vendor Danielle Coleman said.
“Everybody feels proud and happy,” 7-year-old Isabelle Thamps said.
Organizers and participants say Juneteenth is about honoring ancestors and remembering the past but also about the here and now, righting wrongs and breaking barriers.
“The most important thing is unity,” East Flatbush resident Johanna Douillard said.
“As long as we keep staying focused and keep our goals in place, I think that we can knock those barriers down little by little,” Coleman said.
The Juneteenth federal holiday commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. On June 19, 1865, federal troops in Texas brought the news to those enslaved there that they were finally free.
“We think about our ancestors and what they’ve gone through to try to build themselves up, pick themselves. It’s inspiring to know what they’ve gone through, and for us to come out and support one another keep the dollars in the community,” said Tinette Spann, owner of Ms. Spudz.
In Harlem, there was a crowd outside in line for the start of Juneteenth activities, including a literary festival.
It’s the fourth year for the festival. At first, the pandemic forced it to be remote.
On stage were authors Roxane Gay — who wrote “Hunger,” “Bad Feminist” and “Difficult Women” — and Jason Reynolds — who wrote “Miles Morales: Spider-Man,” along with “Stunt Boy,” “Patina” and more.
Reynolds talked about writing as a way to heal.
“This is the thing that I need in order to be myself, what I need to get through the madness of our time,” he said.
Both powerhouse authors say reading is an act of rebellion, on Juneteenth and all-year round.