Junteenth Day 2012

By Lynda Jones

The Juneteenth Day Celebration was enjoyed by hundreds on Tuesday, June 19 along Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. Posing for a photo are members of the dance group “The Roselettes” who perform regularly at The Clinton Rose Senior Center. (Photo by Robert A. Bell)

Once again, Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Milwaukee was filled with the smells of roasted corn, barbeque meats, vendors, and plenty of information booths on voting, tobacco prevention, health and disease prevention to name a few. The event? Juneteenth Day Celebration, a national event commemorating the freedom of people of African descent in America proclaimed more than two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. Milwaukee has one of the nation’s largest Juneteenth events, and it is a matter of pride that Milwaukee’s celebration is now in its 41st year. Alderwoman Milele Coggs, whose district hosts the daylong celebrated stated:

“Tuesday, June 19th marks Juneteenth Day, a day of reflection of the storied history of this nation, appreciation of the freedoms that those who came before us fought to obtain, acknowledgement of the struggle for equality that continues, and a day of celebration.”

Coggs also hosted her own information booth as she does each year where residents could access informational materials and where they were able to communicate any issues or concerns.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore stated: “Juneteenth is a time to commemorate the emancipation of African Americans in the United States and celebrate education and achievement. Across the country Americans join together to reflect and rejoice in the great progress that has been made in our country and renew our commitment to equality for all people as we work to form a more perfect union. In my district – which includes the city of Milwaukee – we have long celebrated Juneteenth Day and I am proud to say that the great state of Wisconsin recognize this important holiday across the state as our official ‘Day of Jubilee’.”

“I encourage all Americans to learn more about this very unique holiday that recognizes an important moment in our country’s history.”

President Obama even weighed in on Juneteenth Day, “Though it would take decades of struggle and collective effort before African Americans were granted equal treatment and protection under the law, Juneteenth is recognized by Americans everywhere as a symbolic milestone in our journey toward a more perfect union. With the recent ground breaking of the first Smithsonian Museum dedicated to African American History and Culture, and the dedication of a monument to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall, this Juneteenth offers another opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come as a nation. And it’s also a chance to recommit ourselves to the ongoing work of guaranteeing liberty and equal rights for all Americans.” Obama said.

Wisconsin under the administration of Governor Jim Doyle finally declared Juneteenth Day as a recognized state holiday in December of 2009, from a bill introduced by State Senator Spencer Coggs.

Sen. Coggs had fought for this legislation since 1987 with his late aunt, former state Rep. Marcia Coggs. They introduced Juneteenth legislation and worked for many years to bring due recognition to the day when slaves were, in reality, freed.