By Aiesha Solomon
On June 17, the city of Laurel held its Juneteenth celebration at Granville Gude Park. The event included musical performances from the Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers, the Laurel High School Singers and other types of entertainment on the Harrison Burton Memorial Stage. There was also food available from various vendors.
“I think we’re seeing, today, different entertainment, different speakers and different individuals talking about what Juneteenth is all about,” said Mayor Craig Moe, in an interview during the Juneteenth event. “I’m really pleased. Talked to a lot of the vendors, couple of them their first time, which is great. They’re very happy to be there and be a part of today’s event as well.”
Laurel resident Renee Few was there “to enjoy some outdoor activity” and “to reflect on history and appreciate the progress that has been made,” she said.
The history of Juneteenth is rooted in the recognition of African Americans as freed people. While President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, it took more than two years for word to reach African American communities throughout the United States. Texas was the last state to receive word, when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865.
“After Councilman [Keith] Sydnor put in for us to do a holiday for Juneteenth, we passed that as a mayor and council, did it before the federal government did theirs, the state government and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Moe said.
Gov. Larry Hogan designated Juneteenth as a holiday in 2022.
According to Audrey Barnes, the city’s director of communications, Juneteenth was previously recognized by a mayoral proclamation before it was designated an official city holiday on June 28, 2021. The city’s first official Juneteenth celebration was held on June 19, 2021. The Juneteenth Freedom Day Celebration Committee is in charge of organizing the yearly Juneteenth holiday event.