As efforts to make Juneteenth a national holiday continue, people in Milwaukee are having celebrations of their own. Juneteenth, held annually on June 19, celebrates the end of slavery in the United States and the date many slaves in Texas finally found out they were free.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, according to Juneteenth.com. It is “a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings.” In recent years, Juneteenth “commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement.”
Here’s a guide to the Juneteenth events happening around Milwaukee this year:
June 16 – SPECIAL EVENT: JUNETEENTH: The Promise of Freedom is an online presentation about the aforementioned holiday. Dr. Charles Taylor will lead the interactive presentation and examine history and current social problems. The event is free, but attendees will need tickets through Eventbrite.
June 19 – Juneteenth Day Parade & Celebration – 50th Anniversary in Milwaukee will start at 8 a.m. on 14th Street and Atkinson Avenue, then travel to Burleigh Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Event is free to the public.
June 19 – The Path of Self-Determination & Liberation: Juneteenth Day Celebration will last from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Alice’s Garden Urban Farm at 2136 N. 21st St., Milwaukee, WI. The event features a market, music, food and activities. The event is free and anybody can attend.
June 19 – Bike Your Block Juneteeth Ride Sherman Phoenix Addition is hosted by Nkenge Adams and RISE Cycles MKE. Cyclists will meet at 9 a.m. at the Sherman Phoenix (3536 N. Fond Du Lac Ave., Milwaukee, WI) and participate in a solidarity ride at 10 a.m. Afterward there will be refreshments, bike clinics, giveaways and the chance to listen to inspiring speakers. The event is free but participants must bring their own bikes, helmets and hydration.
June 19 – Juneteenth Group Ride is a separate group ride hosted by DreamBikes going to the Sherman Phoenix event above. Riders will meet at 8:30 a.m. at Dream- Bikes’ location (2021A N. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr., Milwaukee, WI) and ride to the Sherman Phoenix to participate in Bike Your Block. Those who register online will receive a free t-shirt.
June 19 – We Do It For The Culture (Old School Day Party) is a culture celebration “dedicated to old school hip hop and R&B” at Garfield’s 502 (502 Garfield Ave., Milwaukee, WI.) The stage will have three DJs and is hosted by Kwabena Antoine Nixon of Poetry Unplugged Milwaukee.
June 19 – Juneteenth Celebration – Join youth organization Leaders Igniting Transformation for an event to celebrate black culture led by Black Student Leaders and Hope Restores. The event will go from 12-6 p.m. at Riverside Park located at 1500 E Riverside Place in Milwaukee.
June 19 – Juneteenth Slow Roll – Join Red Bike & Green-Milwaukee for their annual bike ride in the City of Milwaukee’s Juneteenth Parade. The organization is a collective of Black urban cyclists founded in 2007. The group has chapters nationwide and is led by a mission to promote the health, wellness and environment of the African American community, according to the organization’s Facebook page.
Keep your eyes on the horizon for this event coming up in August, too.
The Black is Beautiful Ride: Vol. II
Join local rapper WebsterX and other prominent organizers in Milwaukee with a celebration of unity and justice at the second Black is Beautiful Bike Ride on August 16. Riders will meet at 1 p.m. at Reservoir Park located at 2230 N Bremen Street in Milwaukee.
The event is a moment to collectively exhale as a community and ride for Black lives, WebsterX told Wisconsin Bike Fed.
Juneteenth is held on June 19 because that was the date in 1865 when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were free. Many of the slaves in Texas had not known of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had actually given them freedom more than two years earlier.
Granger read “General Order No. 3,” which stated, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves,” according to the city of Galveston, which has an historical marker for its connection to the holiday.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard University professor and African American historian, wrote in The Root magazine that Juneteenth is “an occasion for gathering lost family members, measuring progress against freedom and inculcating rising generations with the values of self-importance and racial uplift.”
Most states have Juneteenth listed as an official holiday, although it is not a national holiday. In 1980, Texas became the first state to designate Juneteenth as a holiday. In the time since, 45 other states have decided to officially recognize the day, according to The New York Times.
Juneteenth celebrations have occurred in most states, according to Juneteenth.com. A number of cities and towns held events and parades for the 150th anniversary in 2015.