MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Juneteenth is being celebrated this weekend and with June 19th now a federal holiday, there’s more to celebrate than ever.
The past year of social unrest has also brought renewed interest, both to the holiday’s origins and what it means today.READ MORE: Florida Tax Collector To Workers: Get Vaccinated Or Find A New Job
Athenia Rodney is the powerhouse behind Brooklyn’s Juneteenth celebration, part of which will take place at Bedford Stuyvesant’s Restoration Plaza.
“We have the American Independence Day, which is the 4th of July, and then there’s Juneteenth, which is Black independence day. And my point is that they have equal importance in the world.” Rodney has been organizing the event for 12 years.
She said since the death of George Floyd last year, the holiday has taken on new meaning.
“Juneteenth became a symbol for Black solidarity, for people coming together, for people understanding that we were not, and still are not, a part of the fabric of the United States,” said Rodney.
Historically, Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform slaves they’d been freed. That announcement came more than two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.READ MORE: Fort Lauderdale Shaken Baby Case From 1984 Leads To Murder Charge
But in areas of the South, the news was just arriving. Historian Brian Purnell explains, “That becomes a holiday for African Americans in that part of the country.”
Purnell curated an exhibit at the Center for Brooklyn History to coincide with Juneteenth.
“Any time we as Americans can learn a more complete picture of our past, there is a possibility for us to ask new questions, to raise new issues, and to move in new directions as a nation,” he said.
That is part of Rodney’s vision as well.
“I have two boys,” she said. “I can’t be a mom and not feel fearful that something might happen to them every time they walk out of the house. And until that changes, I’m going to continue to push the envelope that we are more than just slaves. We are more than just slavery. We are human beings, just like everyone else, and we should be treated as such.”MORE NEWS: Two Men Arrested In 2016 Murder Of FIU Student
She wants Juneteenth to illuminate not just the saddest but also the proudest moments in Black history, hoping to light the way to a better future.