Twin Cities African American leaders discuss importance of Juneteenth federal holiday |

Twin Cities African American leaders discuss importance of Juneteenth federal holiday

Brett Hoffland
Updated: June 17, 2021 06:54 PM
Created: June 17, 2021 04:55 PM

Juneteenth is now a federal holiday in the United States.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed a bill giving the distinction to June 19. It was on that day in 1865 that slaves in Galveston, Texas got word that the Union had won the Civil War and that they were now free.

Local Black leaders in the Twin Cities talked about why it's so important to make it a federal holiday.

"We celebrate Juneteenth, we have a barbeque," said Latrisha Vetaw, vice president of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. "Black folks always get together and do stuff, that's when we set off our fireworks."

Vetaw said she's proud that they're hosting a variety of activities all week for Juneteenth.

"The park board is just committed to making sure it's inclusive and folks acknowledge this day," Vetaw said.

Known as the end to slavery in America, President Biden made Juneteenth the country's 12th federal holiday and the first new one since 1983 when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was added.

"Making it a federal holiday will give some recognition for people who don't really know about Juneteenth," Dr. Hedy Lemar Walls, the chief social responsibility officer with YMCA of the North, said.

On Thursday, the YMCA's Equity Innovation Center of Excellence hosted an online forum to discuss why this is such a significant day in our country's history.

"It means a reckoning for me that as a country we are finally able to recognize and honor our African American communities," Lemar Walls said.

For these women, they hope making Juneteenth a federal holiday will create new traditions for families.

"What happens on the Fourth of July?" Lemar Walls asked. "People come together they interact, families come together they celebrate. That's what I hope to see with this Juneteenth holiday."

It's a celebration of so much, and as it becomes a federal holiday, Vetaw hopes more people understand why.

"If you Googled Juneteenth, had a great conversation with your Black friend about Juneteenth, or your Black coworker, that would be a great first step in moving this forward. We all need to learn more about slavery," Vetaw said.

There are plenty of different events happening around the Twin Cities for Juneteenth all week, some of which you can find below.

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