‘This isn’t enslaved history, this is American history’: Organizers reflect on importance of Juneteenth federal holiday signing

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 6:57 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Juneteenth is now a federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed the bill. Juneteenth is America’s 11th federal holiday.

Central Virginia has lots of events commemorating Juneteenth, and this year is the first time Henrico is holding a county-wide celebration at Dorey Park. Organizers say it’s important to understand why it’s now a federal holiday.

“It’s like, finally acknowledgment; but it’s going to take a long time and it going to be one of those holidays where people are going to be like, what is it about,” said Henrico Parks and Rec Coordinator, Julian Charity.

The new federal holiday commemorates the day the last enslaved people in Texas learned they were free, which was two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

“This is Black history, this isn’t African American history, this isn’t enslaved history, this is American history, this is a part of our nation’s history,” Charity said.

Henrico Parks and Rec’s first-ever Juneteenth Celebration is Saturday in Dorey Park. It will be filled with music, food and fireworks, with the goal of promoting unity.

“Just because we don’t look alike, and just because we don’t have the same about of melanin in our skin, doesn’t mean we can’t be family,” said Charity.

“It’s going to be something really special to bring the community together on this day to acknowledge for very this specific intention of reflecting on our past, acknowledging where we are in current time and current climate, and envisioning where we are going to be moving forward in this movement,” said Ashley Williams, founder of BareSOUL Yoga & The Well Collective.

In Richmond, Williams hopes to turn it into a teachable moment with her event at the 17th Street Farmers Market.

Juneteenth 17 st market
Juneteenth 17 st market((Source: NBC12))

“Each week [Wednesday evenings], we’re at the 17th Street Market as a time to bring the community together, to acknowledge the history, and also use the practice of yoga and drumming,” said Williams. “This time we’re doing something special. Tomorrow [Juneteenth] we’re doing a sunset yoga drum meditation. It’s the second time we’ve done it in the city.”

Williams said she and her business has celebrated Juneteenth for years and is glad to see that it’s now getting much bigger recognition by the government.

“Moving forward, we’ll continue to use the day as a day of education, awareness and elevating,” said Williams. “I think there’s an invitation now for our community and people of other identifies and roles to acknowledge it, as well.”

For a full list of events happening around Central Virginia, click here.

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