It's Juneteenth Again: Here's How Young People Nationwide Are Celebrating 'Freedom Day'

Here are places where the youth have found unique ways to highlight the holiday.

One year ago, Juneteenth became a federal holiday when President Joe Biden signed a bill making it official. However, celebrations commemorating June 19, 1865 – the day U.S. Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Tex., informing 250,000 Black people that they had been free for two years – actually goes back generations.

The holiday is now a day to remember the end of chattel slavery in the United States (although many remained in bondage after Gordon’s announcement) and honor the rich and diverse cultural traditions of Black communities and Black families. In many places, young people from kids to college students, are making their own mark and showing why the holiday is important to them.

Here are some of the ways young Black people are celebrating Juneteenth across the country this year.  

  • Bay Area, California

    The Bay has a long tradition of celebrating Black culture and Juneteenth is no exception. So it's no surprise there's a list of various activities.

    The San Francisco Citywide Black Student Union is offering up a day of programming planned and executed completely by the youth community in San Francisco. The First Annual Juneteenth Festival  will feature local entrepreneurs, creatives and artists in the celebration at the Jerry Garcia Ampitheater  in John McLaren Park. Check out the video above they made on The Juneteenth Project.

    Across the Bay in  Oakland, Afrocentric Oakland is presenting its Juneteenth Weekend at the Lake Merritt Ampitheater in Oakland, Calif. Featured is the 10th Annual Pan African Wellness Fest on June 18 which includes meditation, yoga, spoken word and other activities that are good for the mind and body. On  June 19, people can take in the 10th Annual  Fam Bam, an all-day event featuring a Father’s Day tribute, vendors, a youth zone and music with the Bay's best DJs. 

  • Brooklyn, New York

    Photo Courtesy: Juneteenth NY

    The 13th Annual Juneteenth NY celebration is offering up three days worth of events in Brooklyn, New York.  Among other things, there’s a festival that features a kids’ corner and food trucks, a concert, and a “The Celebration of Black Kings” red carpet brunch.  

    Aniya Boñilla, 20, a junior film production major at SUNY Fredonia in upstate New York is participating in the festivities as a production assistant and says she is proud to be part of a new generation upholding the traditions of Juneteenth and putting a new signature on it.

    “It’s important for me because it reminds me of what we’ve come through and what we can achieve and reminds us that we are not back in those times and can overcome past traumas,” she explained. Boñilla said she can see herself one day being part of a team that produces movies about Juneteenth. “Slavery wasn’t just Black history, it was American history so this was the day we became fully fledged people in the eyes of the public.”

    Juneteenth NY Executive Director, Athenia Rodney said the event will include the Juneteenth NY Awards Luncheon and Liberation & Libation: The Quilt Project to honor those lost in the COVID-19 pandemic. “With Juneteenth being America’s newest federal holiday and now that we are able to return to full capacity, this year’s event is slated to be our biggest yet.”

  • Galveston – Fort Worth, Texas

    As the birthplace of Juneteenth, Galveston, Texas has always been alive with activities on that day. The island city will be buzzing with activities, everything from a Juneteenth Parade and Picnic at Wright Cuney Park, to a Food Drive at the Old Central Cultural Center, to the Juneteenth Jubilee full of live music and historic reenactments, taking place at the Nia Cultural Center.

    And the spirit of youth powering Juneteenth will also be present. The Center has already run a poetry writing workshop run by America’s Got Talent Winner Brandon Leake.  Click on the video above for more details.

    Competing for the Juneteenth throne is Fort Worth, where Opal Lee, who is known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” resides. She is best known for her work in getting the holiday recognized and will be commemorating the first anniversary of federal Juneteenth legislation with a 2.5 mile Walk for Freedom.  In 2021, the 94-year-old activist told the Houston Chronicle that a Juneteenth federal holiday would be “the catalyst that’s going to make all of us realize that we are the same; we are made by one God ... I believe that if you can be taught to hate, you can be taught to love.”

  • Greensboro, North Carolina

    The celebration gets underway in Greensboro, N.C., on June 17 at the University of North Carolina Greensboro which is teaming up with Guilford College and North Carolina A&T to present "A Sober Conversation About Juneteenth" on Zoom, with UNCG's Nakia Hoskins and Brian Robinson. Then on June 18, Greensboro's Ben L. Smith High School marching band, will perform as part of a drumline at the Chatham County Fairgrounds in Pittsboro, N.C. Check out the video above to see what the Ben L. Smith band can do.

    Finally, back at UNCG performances by the UNCG Jazz Quartet and the NC A&T Jazz Ensemble and poetry by Josephus Thompson will round out the event.

  • Detroit, Michigan

    Southern cities aren’t the only ones to celebrate Juneteenth. The Motor City’s, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit has put together a Juneteenth Jubilee Freedom Weekend, which on June 18 will feature an Underground Railroad Treasure Hunt in which participants will explore five downtown sites that played a role in the Underground Railroad; and on June 19 a presentation of the film We the People will take place, along with a Spirits Soar concert which celebrates Black Music Month. To round it out, teens can also plug in to the museum's curated Spotify playlist called “Melodies of Freedom.”

  • Louisville, Kentucky

    Photo Courtesy: Roots 101: African American Museum

    Louisville, has an extensive line-up of activities. The 3rd Annual Louisville Juneteenth Festival is four days worth of entertainment, education, and celebration. On June 16, the event starts with a Workshop and Social hour targeted at the professional and creative communities; it continues June 17 with the “dress to impress” Lipstick Wars Poetry Slam where spoken word artists from across the  country will spit verses in a competition for cash prizes and a spot on the Juneteenth Festival Main Stage; following on June 18, the Culture Business & Bourbon event will bring together influencers for networking, panels and of course sips of Kentucky’s signature adult beverage for those 21 and over; finally on June 19, the festivities end with the Do Something Black Today VIP Lounge and the Louisville Juneteenth Fest Afterparty.

  • Additional reporting by Grace Angrum.

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