Juneteenth pic 4

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced in 2021 landmarks across the state will be lit red, black and green on June 19 in celebration of Juneteenth. Additionally, Governor Cuomo issued a proclamation naming June 19 Juneteenth in the State of New York.

Juneteenth, recognized on Sunday, June 19 is a day for remembrance. It commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It was on that day in 1865 that Union soldiers – the United States Colored Troops – arrived in Galveston, Texas, and Union Gen. Gordon Granger announced the Civil War was over and slaves were free.

The announcement came more than two months after the war ended and two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which became official on Jan. 1, 1863.

Former slaves immediately began to celebrate with prayer, feasting, song, and dance. The day became an annual celebration as former slaves and their descendants returned to Texas each June to mark the date.

As the years passed, the celebrations began to spread to other parts of the country, but it wasn’t until 2021 – more than 150 years later – that President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law and the day became a national holiday.

According to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, since the holiday falls on Father’s Day this year, the 2022 Juneteenth Day theme is Founding Fathers of Freedom.

In addition to the annual observance in Buffalo, locally, Juneteenth events are planned throughout the week at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, including a full slate of activities on Sunday. In addition, on Monday, the “Underground Railroad and the Seeds of Afro Futurism” collaboration with author dann j. Broyld and artist Ellex Swavoni will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Broyd will discuss his book, “Borderland Blacks: Two Cities in the Niagara Region During the Final Decades of Slavery” and Swavoni will present her artwork.

On Friday, “Voices of Freedom” will be held at 3:30 p.m. at the Tubman Plaza at the heritage center. Bel Canto Youth Chorus of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, will perform songs in relation to the Underground Railroad, Liberation, and celebration of Juneteenth.

On June 25, a dinner and tour will take place at the heritage center starting at 5:30 p.m. The event includes a tour, conversation about the importance of Juneteenth and a dinner with the center’s team which is included in the $10 ticketed tour entry. Registration is required and closes at 60 people.

Other ways to mark the Juneteenth holiday, thanks to our friend Major Stephen Carroll, Jr. of the Salvation Army Niagara Falls Corps, include:

• Visiting a local anti-racism related historic attraction, for instance there’s the Freedom Crossing Monument in Lewiston.

• Volunteering — When you volunteer, it usually benefits you more than the people you serve. If you let the experience change you, then the unintended benefits may impact more people than you could ever dream.

• Watch a movie — Almost every streaming platform has a section dedicated to Juneteenth or Black themes.

• Read a book — Take your pick — political, poetry, fiction, history, all with related themes.

• Take a break — Rest is important. If we don’t take time to process the stress and seek to understand what is going on around us then we begin to internalize the emotions and stress and it can become physically unhealthy.

Most importantly, as with other federal holidays such as Memorial Day and Independence Day, Monday should be a day of reflection. Take a few moments at least to remember that grim time in our history and to honor those who suffered.

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