By Ana Martinez-OrtizEarlier this week, friends and families gathered in jubilation to celebrate Juneteenth Day. The residents of Milwaukee were no exception as they gathered along Dr. Martin Luther King Drive to celebrate.
Juneteenth Day has been celebrated on June 19 since 1865. According to Juneteenth Day Milwaukee’s website, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce that the Civil War was officially over and more importantly, that those who were once enslaved were now free.
Upon hearing this news, people erupted into celebration and prayer. Since then, Juneteenth has been marked as a day for joy and remembrance.According to Adriane Griffin of Northcott Neighborhood House Inc., Juneteenth Day came to Milwaukee in 1971 around the time of the Milwaukee riots. Someone had attended a Juneteenth Day celebration down south and brought the idea back to Milwaukee.
Over the years, Milwaukee has chosen to celebrate Juneteenth by focusing on education and self-improvement, per their website. Local African American girls and young women are offered the chance to participate in the Miss Juneteenth Pageant and the Little Miss Juneteenth Pageant.The pageants focus on the academic achievements, community contributions and talents of the participants. Griffin, who is one of the key organizers behind Juneteenth Day, said the pageants help kids who are interested in pursuing college or who need financial help.
This year Alexandrea English and Kalia Goosebery were crowned the co-winner of the Miss Juneteenth Pageant and Kayle Philips won the Little Miss Juneteenth Pageant.
In addition to the pageants, a parade followed by an all-day celebration occurs every year. This year’s theme was “It’s Time to Make A Change.”As part of the change, Mac Weddle, Executive Director of Northcott Neighborhood House, requested for 24 hours without any gun violence.
“It’s a day of fellowship, it’s day of unity,” Weddle said.
Weddle has been an active participant of Milwaukee’s Juneteenth Day for the past 43 years and was named the Grand Marshall this year. It was his first time walking in the parade.
To further facilitate a day of peace, Northcott partnered up with the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) to ensure everybody’s safety.
Captain Boris Turcinovic of the 5th District, expressed his excitement to celebrate Juneteenth and to help keep it safe. And, Weddle commented that the arrests that occurred several years prior, were because those individuals were already suspects and that the festivities had nothing to do with their arrests.
No arrests occurred last year or this year.
Overall, this year’s Juneteenth Day was a success. The celebrations and merriment carried on despite the rain, as people took the opportunity to enjoy delicious food, buy from vendors, listen to live local music or visit one of the information tents.
“It brings us together to remember our past as we go forward in our future,” Griffin said.
Although Juneteenth Day is over, Juneteenth Day Milwaukee’s Facebook page encouraged residents to keep the celebration and spirits high by continuing to support local black business owners, participate in the upcoming elections and by advocating for children and families.