BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery, is being celebrated across the country this weekend. Right here in Birmingham, multiple events are happening throughout the metro area.
Saturday’s celebration focused on the freedom, culture, and empowerment of African Americans.
“It is when the last slaves found out that they were freed. Two full years after the emancipation proclamation, so this day is a day of reckoning with who we’ve been in the past and the power of who we can be in the future. So, it’s about liberation it’s about proclamation, it’s about celebration and we’re excited to still be in that process right now,” said DeJuana Thompson with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
State and Federal Leaders make strides to honor Juneteenth. Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey declared Juneteenth as a state holiday following President Joe Biden’s declaration of making Juneteenth a national holiday.
“The country has a long history of moving forward as it says in the Preamble of the United States Constitution, we’re moving towards a more perfect union and think the recognition of Juneteenth is one of those milestones that show us how far we’ve come as a country,” said Barry McNealy with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
The city of Birmingham leaders also are continuing efforts to celebrate the annual holiday.
“Last year, what our city did was take half of a day and this year we did half a day for our city employees. City Hall, the building, we commemorated things like lighting up our building like this year and last year the building was lit. But there are more things we can do in education to let all generations know how important Juneteenth really is,” said Mayor Randall Woodfin, City of Birmingham.
Community activists say they’re making an effort to encourage the teaching of Black American history in the classroom throughout Alabama.
“We’re hoping to have Juneteenth classes in all the schools and colleges. We’re working on that now. We already have schools like Jones Valley School, you know they have Juneteenth classes that they do fifteen minutes each day because I go there and teach them,” said Brenda Ward, with the Juneteenth Committee National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.
Ward says she’s also she’s working to get more grants to fund more scholarships for students in honor of Juneteenth.