-DID YOU KNOW?-
By Tara Yilmaz
→ Did you know Juneteenth National Independence Day is now a federal holiday?
On Thursday, June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that established Juneteenth as a federal holiday. After signing the bill, he made remarks regarding the importance of the holiday. "We consecrate Juneteenth for what it ought to be, what it must be: a national holiday. As Vice President Kamala Harris noted, a holiday that will join the others of our national celebrations: our independence, our laborers who built this nation, our servicemen and women who served and died in its defense.
→ Did you know Juneteenth is the first holiday that was approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day? Former President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating the holiday in November 1983, but it took until the year 2000 for all 50 states to observe it. Since the Reagan era, Americans around the nation have been observing the holiday by volunteering, listening to his "I Have a Dream Speech," or reflecting on Rev. Dr. King's message and ultimate sacrifice. Four decades later, Americans have a new federal holiday that will allow them the opportunity to learn about the enforcement of the emancipation proclamation and celebrate the last enslaved Americans from bondage.
→ Did you know more Americans are creating new traditions to commemorate Juneteenth?
It's not an "out with the old, and in with the new," thought process. It's about incorporating new and ever-growing and tried-and-true traditions.
At the heart of celebrating, Americans often observe the holiday by spending time with family, friends and their community. They attend parades, barbeques, concerts and city events.
→ Did you know drinking red soda pop, eating red velvet cake, and indulging in red-colored food is observed as a way to pay tribute to the blood that was spilled in the name of freedom? These customary traditions are a staple during Juneteenth. Present-day with the changing of the generations, new traditions are being created in ways to form a connection with the ancestors.
Intimate gatherings with modern-day griots (storytellers) to orate the past and current struggles of African Americans. Some hold a moment of silence to reflect on the unheard cries of the enslaved.
Others toss bouquets of flowers into the Atlantic Ocean or a large body of water to pay respect for the ancestors who chose bravery over bondage and made the Atlantic their resting place instead of enduring the middle passage (the sea journey of slave ships).
→ Did you know on Oct. 16, 1968, during the summer Olympic medal ceremony, two African American Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised a black fist glove during the playing of the U.S. National Anthem to show solidarity with the oppressed. During a moment when Smith and Carlos could’ve solely focused on their gold and bronze medal victories, they paired their celebratory moment with a silent gesture in support of human rights.
→ Did you know organizations in McKees Rocks are planning a Juneteenth Carnival Jubilee from 12:30 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 18? Presented by African American Celebration of the Arts, Focus on Renewal and Sto-Rox Public Library, there will be music, food, vendors, community and the celebration of freedom. The event is for all ages and will be held at central locations in McKees Rocks near the Community Resource Center on Chartiers Avenue.
Other events are being held city-wide as follows:
• June 10: PPC Juneteenth Concert – Frick Environmental Center
• June 16: Poetry Unplugged: A Juneteenth Celebration – August Wilson Center
• June 17-19: WPA Juneteenth Celebration – Downtown Pittsburgh
• June 18: Juneteenth Celebration – Les Getz Memorial Park, Swissvale
For more information on Pittsburgh’s Juneteenth celebrations, visitpittsburgh.com/juneteenth-freedom-day.