Juneteenth celebrations kick off across the Twin Cities

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Juneteenth celebrations are kicking off across the metro area to acknowledge the day slavery ended over a century ago.

Sunday, June 19 marks the official holiday, but across the country people are celebrating freedom by diving into history and starting new traditions.

Organizers in Minneapolis kicked off the Freedom Ball at Granada Theater to create a safe space for the LGBTQ Black community to be celebrated. 

“To see so many people of color in one space and to also see our allies lifting us up, I think that it’s more than anything that I could have asked for,” Char Mikli, Freedom Ball organizer, said. “I’m overjoyed.”

Juneteenth celebrates the official end of slavery in the United States.

It’s an era that feels like just yesterday to some.

“My great grandmother lived to be 104. She was born into slavery, a person that held me. Slavery and Juneteenth are not that far removed,” Valerie Crutcher, Freedom Ball attendee, said.

Dr. John Wright helped bring the African American & African studies department to life at the University of Minnesota.

“Juneteenth is part of a long standing history of African American freedom celebrations that preceded the civil war and that’s a fascinating, but still not very well-known history,” Wright said.

He taught his last class back in 2019, after 35 years of digging up history, he said, was lost.

“I’m very accustomed to so much of American history remaining in the back of our consciousness, remaining underground, untold and unofficial,” he said.

Juneteenth became a topic of conversation in 2020 after racial justice protests swept the nation.

The spotlight shined bright on several high-profile police killings of Black Americans, including George Floyd.

Wright said the racial reckoning forced people to take a step back and listen.

“Despite all the claims in over the course of the last quarter century that we had somehow moved beyond racism and that race no longer mattered, we are bombarded day in and day out with the continuing contradictions about the role of race and the power of race in this society,” he said. 

Wright said advancing racial equity and righting historical wrongs is still an ongoing fight, but making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a step in the right direction.