Music, dance and empowerment floated through Albuquerque as Burqueños showed up to celebrate Juneteenth over a three-day period at Civic Plaza. The event, entitled “To a Higher Ground,” lasted from June 18 to June 20.
Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the emancipation of enslaved people in America on June 19. The holiday originated in Texas in 1865, when the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation was applied after the end of the Civil War.
The theme for Albuquerque’s celebration this year was “Ujamaa,” or the idea of cooperative economics based on democratic principles and participation. The City of Albuquerque’s website said the event was meant to “celebrate Black-owned businesses, artisans, vendors, performers and more.”
KOAT reported that over 90 locally Black-owned businesses were showcased during the celebrations.
From food to dancing, all three days were jam-packed with a variety of events for participants to attend, including Black Wall Street, Soul Food Alley, A Kid’s Corner, Black Excellence Avenue and more, according to the city’s website.
“When we have celebrations like this, you can see your vibrant community. You can see the true multi-culture of New Mexico,” Mason Graham, New Mexico Black Voters Coalitions lead, told KOAT.
This is the first time Juneteenth has been celebrated as a federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed legislation on June 17 declaring it as such.
“The promise of equality is not going to be fulfilled until we become real, it becomes real in our schools and on our main streets and in our neighborhoods,” Biden said at a ceremony at the White House on June 17.
This is the first new federal holiday since the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983, according to Oprah Daily, and 48 states had already passed legislation recognizing the holiday before Biden made it a federal holiday.
This quick turnaround caused a scramble for government agencies, businesses and nonprofits to decide how to commemorate the new holiday with only two days of notice, according to NPR. While some did shut down for the holiday, it was not possible for everyone with such short notice, such as the U.S. Postal Service.
“The recognition of the stain of slavery and slavery in the United States and the work that needs to be done — I mean, it should be followed by many, many organizations,” Rosa Nunez, Foley Hoag law firm’s diversity, equity and inclusion director, told NPR. “The private sector doesn't have to follow the government, but it's just the right thing to do.”
The Albuquerque event had a multitude of sponsors, including One Albuquerque, Black New Mexico Movement, UNM African American Student Services and more. Support from both a local and state-wide level was displayed through the diversity of sponsors, from Meow Wolf to the New Mexico Department of Health.
“It's just about getting together and unifying for one weekend so we can just celebrate each other,” Nichole Rogers, one of this year’s Juneteenth organizers, told KOAT.
Megan Gleason is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org