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Madison community celebrates Juneteenth

For the first time, the day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. is being recognized as a federal holiday.
Updated: Jun. 19, 2021 at 11:02 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - June 19, or Juneteenth, recognizes the end of slavery in the United States, when in 1865, enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas learned they were free, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. In 2021, the day is being celebrated for the first time as a federal holiday.

People in Madison said it is nice to see more people embracing Juneteenth, but more than that, it is exciting to come together as a community and celebrate Black history and culture - the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic they have been able to gather in large numbers.

“It’s like when you been in a cocoon and you come up out of the cocoon,” said Dorothy Reed, a vendor participating in Juneteenth celebrations in Madison.

Tamara Story, also attending celebrations described it: “Celebrating and having a good time and coming together and everybody hugging and embracing.”

IssaUsThing, a group of Madison artists, businesses and nonprofits, organized celebrations at Elver Park Saturday. For them, Juneteenth is about community.

“It’s about everybody getting together and having an understanding of what this day is about,” said organizer Rodney Alexander.

Reed echoed the focus on community, saying, “It’s just not for black people or for white people, it’s for all Americans.”

The event featured basketball games, Double Dutch contests and a showcase for Black entrepreneurs and vendors like Reed. Organizers said they wanted to celebrate the things they take pride in as a Black community.

Reed said for her, Juneteenth is also a celebration of history and freedom, marking the day slavery ended in the U.S.

“I’m free every day, but it’s a freedom that people before me fought for,” she explained.

Juneteenth has existed as a holiday for over a century, but on Thursday, President Joe Biden signed legislation marking it as a federal holiday. It is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Reed said seeing the recognition made her happy, and others echoed her comments.

“I feel that they, everyone is embracing this, they’re not taking it for granted,” Story said.

However, some organizers acknowledged the recognition as a nice first step, but said they need to see the government take more action for the Black community.

“What we need is an executive order to make federal killings of African Americans a federal crime, and what we need is reparations for African Americans,” said organizer William Wright.

Organizers also said they hope to make this event an annual tradition. They said they hope this can be a space where everyone, no matter their skin color, can feel welcome and learn about Black culture.

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