RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Juneteenth brought people together in events across Central Virginia on Saturday celebrate and shed light on the longstanding tradition turned national holiday this week.
Juneteenth is the commemoration of when the last enslaved people in the United States were told that they had been freed by President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln signed the Executive Order on Jan. 1, 1863, but enslaved people in Texas were not notified of their freedom until June 19, 1865 – more than two years after they were freed.
Hundreds of people gathered in Byrd Park Saturday afternoon for the Juneteenth Jubilee Celebration.
Sherri Robinson, the owner of ShowLove LLC, said after the pandemic and death of George Floyd last year, they wanted to create an event where everyone would come together and enjoy the fun.
“I know our ancestors’ hearts are filled with joy right now,” Robinson told 8News.
Several Black-owned businesses and elected officials like Senator Tim Kaine visited the event on Saturday. Bands played for the crowd’s enjoyment at Byrd Park.
Rebecca Mann, CEO of the non-profit Uniquely Diverse, LLC, was one of those business owners at the jubilee Saturday. The event also gave black-owned businesses the opportunity to showcase what they can do for the community.
“We all do so many aspects of business as African Americans or brown minority in the community,” Mann said.
Zakiyyah Muhammad of Petersburg was at the event with at least three of her grandchildren Saturday.
“This to me today represents freedom,” she said.
She told 8News Juneteenth is a celebration of her ancestors’ strength and endurance for a better hope for the generations to come.
“It means so much because I have 15 grandchildren,” Muhammad said. “Three just graduated from high school. But for them to see this today, it means that they see what economic dignity, what true freedom is about, striving to have not only, they’re able to have economic dignity, and love and unity.”
Elsewhere in the River City, young leaders from two local organizations teamed up for a talent show and block party in honor of Juneteenth.
The free event was hosted by Rise for Youth and Community 50/50 and took place at the innovation center. Young performers and artists took the stage and there was live music and other events.
Organizers said the goal was to elevate the voices of Virginia’s youth.