Americans mark Juneteenth with parties, events, quiet reflection on the end of slavery after the Civil War

Detroit (AP) — Americans across the country celebrated June 19 this weekend, marking the relatively new national holiday with barbecues, parades and other gatherings as they commemorate the end of slavery after civil war.

While many have treated the long holiday weekend as a reason to party, others have called for quiet reflection on America’s often violent and oppressive treatment of its black citizens. And still others have noticed the strangeness of celebrating a federal holiday marking the end of slavery in the country when many Americans are trying to prevent this history from being taught in public schools.

“East #Juneteenth the only federal holiday that some states have banned the teaching of its history and meaning? Author Michelle Duster asked on Twitter over the weekend, referring to moves in Florida, Oklahoma and Alabama banning an Advancement Placement African American Studies course or the teaching of certain concepts of race and gender. racism.

On the weekend of June 16, a Roman Catholic church in Detroit dedicated its service to urging parishioners to deepen the lessons of the holiday.

“To have justice, we must work for peace. And to have peace, we must work for justice,” John Thorne, executive director of the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance, told Congregation Gesu Catholic Church in Detroit.

Standing in front of paintings of a black Jesus and Mary, Thorne said Juneteenth is a day of celebration, but it “has to be a lot more too”.

It was important to talk about June 19 during Sunday Mass, the Reverend Lorn Snow told a reporter as the service ended.

“The fight is still not over. There is a lot of work to do,” he said.

Most black Americans agree, according to a recent poll. 70% of black adults polled in an AP-NORC poll said “a lot” needs to be done to get equal treatment for African Americans in policing. And black Americans suffer far worse health outcomes than their white peers across a variety of measures, including rates of maternal mortality, asthma, high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease.

Although end-of-slavery celebrations are new in many parts of the country, in Memphis, where the slave trade once thrived, June 19 is celebrated long before it became a designated federal holiday in 2021. The Tennessee Legislature passed a bill earlier this year that also makes it a holiday.

Festivities include a multi-day festival featuring food, music, arts and crafts, and cultural exhibits in a tree-lined park in the city’s medical district. Memphis Park once housed an equestrian statue and the grave of slave trader and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The statue and the body have been moved in recent years.

Memphis is home to the National Civil Rights Museum located on the site of the former Lorraine Motel, the former black-owned hotel where the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968. The museum is offering free admission Monday to mark the vacation. At the museum, visitors can hear recorded speeches from civil rights leaders, including King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers and others.

Ryan Jones, the museum’s associate curator, said Juneteenth should be celebrated in the United States with the same emphasis as July 4 as Independence Day.

“It is the independence of a people who have been forced to endure oppression and discrimination because of the color of their skin,” Jones said.

The June 19 holiday, Jones said, should also be seen as more than a day when people attend parties and barbecues. In fact, he said, this is a time to reflect on the past.

“It recognizes the sacrifices of those early civil rights veterans between World War I and World War II, and of course in modern society, the protests, the demonstrations, the nonviolence, the marches,” Jones said.

As Americans gathered to mark the holiday, it was not without incident. In a Chicago suburb late Saturday night, one person was killed and 22 others injured in a shooting that is still being investigated by police on Sunday. A witness said the party in the parking lot of a strip mall in Willowbrook, Illinois was a June 19 celebration.

The White House released a statement Sunday afternoon, saying, “The President and First Lady are thinking of those killed and injured in the shooting in Illinois last night. We reached out to offer assistance to state and local leaders in the wake of this tragedy at a June 19 community celebration.

The holiday celebration continues Monday with Vice President Kamala Harris appearing on a CNN special with musical guests including Miguel and Charlie Wilson.

Schools and federal buildings will be closed on Monday.

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