By Karen Stokes
Despite the mayhem that Milwaukee has experienced so far this summer, thousands of Milwaukee residents gathered and demonstrated their commitment for their community at the 46th annual Juneteenth Day Celebration.
Organized by the Northcott Neighborhood House, the Milwaukee festival which started in 1971, commemorates the end of slavery in the confederate south and specifically the announcement to slaves on June 19, 1865 in Galveston,Texas by Union soldiers, that the Civil War ended and they were now free.
This occurred two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
The Juneteenth festivities were held on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive between Center and Burleigh Streets and the streets were lined with cultural and family-friendly activities and booths including crafts, vendors, health and human service booths, exhibits, food trucks and musical performances.
The celebration began with a parade and the theme for the 2017 parade was “Standing on the Promise.”
“Juneteenth Day is a tradition and we come and partake in this tradition,” said Jan Johnson Carlyle who with her husband Presley, have attended the Juneteenth Day celebration since the beginning in the 70’s.
“We don’t, hopefully temporary, have the African World Festival at the lakefront, we partake in Juneteenth to experience a Black cultural event.”
The weather cooperated in the morning but despite the heavy downpour which started mid afternoon, crowds remained to enjoy the entertainment.
American Idol contestant Felix Ramsey, Chocolate Ice 2, Finese and Love, Peace and Soul Band and others provided the music that many stayed and dance in the rain.
Juneteenth Day not only offered a vehicle to look at our past and honor our ancestors but offered hope for the youth.
Milwaukee native, singer-songwriter Cincere, was lending his talents to advocate for a new program from the Running Rebels organization.
“I’m faithful to the Juneteenth celebration,” said Cincere. “I’m actually here with the Running Rebels, we’re pushing a new program, Pause 4 Peace. The program teaches financial literacy, community building and skill building for the youth.”
Cincere is also working on another new project, a new album is about to be completed and soon a single titled “Dismissed” will be released.
Another new initiative was launched by WestCare Wisconsin was Hugs No Drugs. Hugs No Drugs is a program targeting youth to curb drug usage and inform youth on the danger of drugs.
Celebrating Juneteenth Day has grown throughout the country with 45 states and the District of Columbia participating. There are still five states that do not recognize or celebrate Juneteenth: Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Referring to all the negative incidents that are the topic of many news releases and conversation, Presley Carlyle said, “Myself, I do not feel good about a lot of things going on in our community but I looked forward to Juneteenth being a positive event.”