By Mitchell Hang
Throughout the past few weeks, many people across the cities of College Park, Riverdale, Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Laurel celebrated Juneteenth, two years after the U.S. government officially declared it as a federal holiday.
The history of Juneteenth goes back to 1865, when the last of the enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas were notified on June 19 that slavery had ended, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Over the next decades, many Black communities celebrated the holiday as a sign of their freedom in America.
President Joe Biden first signed a law that made Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021, 100 years after the Tulsa Race Massacre. “Juneteenth is a day… in which we remember the moral stain and terrible toll of slavery on our country,” he said in his proclamation. “But it is a day that also reminds us of our incredible capacity to heal, hope, and emerge from our darkest moments with purpose and resolve.”
Throughout the past few weeks, many people throughout College Park, Riverdale, Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Laurel enjoyed themselves celebrating Black empowerment and culture for Juneteenth, and the festivities varied in different places.
College Park & Riverdale
This year, the celebrations for Juneteenth rang high in College Park, as the city had started officially recognizing it as a city holiday a year prior to its official declaration as a federal holiday in 2021. The people in College Park were not alone, as those in Riverdale also joined in the celebration.
At the University of Maryland, the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee held a Juneteenth celebration in conjunction with the Black Scholars in Biology organization, with University President Darryll J. Pines stopping by to partake in the festivities.
In Riverdale, Word of Faith Church of Jesus Christ Inc. on 66th Ave. organized a Juneteenth Community Day Concert Series on June 17. Held from 12 to 6 p.m., this celebration featured free food, activities such as face painting, and live music performed by the gospel group Anton Milton & Glorified as well as the gospel go-go band Body of Evidence.
Hyattsville & Mount Rainier
The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System held a Juneteenth Festival at the Hyattsville Branch Library on June 10 from 1 to 4 p.m., which included a genealogy discussion/presentation, a Juneteenth community poster, which attendees could contribute to, a tour of the Prince George’s Room featuring resources and collections on Black history, as well as a game of Bingo infused with Juneteenth trivia.
However, the weather was not always bright and sunny for celebrations in Hyattsville. The City of Hyattsville had initially scheduled its Juneteenth Summer Jam to occur on June 16 in Hyatt Park. However, it was canceled due to anticipated thunderstorms for that evening. The next Summer Jam is planned to occur on July 21 at The Spot.
In Mount Rainier, the Juneteenth Family Celebration Committee held a Juneteenth Fest at the 3500 block of Perry Street on June 16 from 4 to 8 p.m. It was advertised to be held “rain or shine,” and featured vendors selling clothes, toys, and other accessories, as well as performances by various musicians, including African drum and dance group Soul In Motion and a Michael Jackson tribute performer.
The City of Laurel had its Juneteenth Celebration at Granville Gude Park on June 17 from 12 to 4 p.m. The event was not only an opportunity for people to be educated on the significance of Juneteenth, but it was also a hub for live entertainment and fun activities for people of all ages.
Prior to the celebration, Craig A. Moe, the mayor of Laurel, announced on June 6 that he would proclaim June 19 as “Juneteenth” while also acknowledging the date’s history. “I… urge all citizens to become more aware of the significance of this celebration of African American history and in the heritage of our nation and City,” he said.
The City of Laurel Juneteenth Committee largely contributed to the event’s planning, alongside involvement from the Patuxent River Chapter of Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc., the Tau Delta Zeta Chapter of The Ladies of Zeta Phi Beta, and the Zeta Iota Chapter of National Sorority Phi Delta Kappa, Inc.
After everyone was welcomed to the event, Minister Victoria Haith led a prayer. Following that, there were multiple moments of learning and enjoyment, from the teaching of the history and meaning of Juneteenth to the performances by acts such as the Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers, singers of Laurel High School, and the Eisenhower Middle School Step Team.
No matter the time of day or venue, many people in College Park, Riverdale, Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Laurel enjoyed themselves celebrating Juneteenth. Spirits were high as locals promoted Black culture and empowerment, remembering the victory of the Emancipation Proclamation and the liberation of all enslaved African Americans across the country.