Juneteenth celebration held in Anchorage after becoming a federal holiday

Juneteenth celebration held at former Northway Mall in Anchorage two days after it became a federal holiday.
Published: Jun. 20, 2021 at 11:44 AM AKDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2021 at 11:56 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday is a sign of hope for many in the African-American community. President Biden signed a bill into law on June 17, making Juneteenth the 11th federal holiday and the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.

June 19 is a day that celebrates the end of slavery in southern states after the Civil War and has become symbolic of freedom.

“We’re celebrating the day of freedom, emancipation, and actually, Juneteenth is also known as Jubilee Day, so I’m here with my mother and we’re sharing this moment together with the community,” said Genesis Allen-Lockhart who attended Anchorage’s Juneteenth celebration. “I’m so glad that the holiday is here, and it’s implemented and it’s honored.”

Allen-Lockhart’s mother, Barbara J. Allen says Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday is a step in the right direction.

“We can clear the history and move forward and join hands with one another, we need to be getting along with each other instead of pulling against each other,” Allen said.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Sen. Lisa Murkowski were both in attendance at the celebration which was held at the former Northway Mall.

“This is a day in which our country became better. We began the process of not leaving folks behind in this experiment we call America,” Dunleavy said. “It’s been long-coming. It’s a second independence really for Americans in this country, for African-Americans.”

“Every step that we make every day to ensure equality, eliminate racism and discrimination — everything that we do together as one people united, this is what we should be doing,” Murkowski said.

At Saturday’s Juneteenth celebration in Anchorage, there were music performances, dances, vendors, bounce houses, and good food. But celebrations aside, the holiday is also a day of reckoning for many.

“It’s literally an acknowledgment that a dark time happened in our history, and it’s America finally acknowledging what happened to our people in our community. It’s like a reckoning for us,” said Jasmin Smith, Juneteenth Event Organizer.

Smith says she’s ecstatic that Juneteenth is now being recognized as a federal holiday, but also recognizes that more work still needs to be done.

“We’re still battling voter suppression, police reform and economics and things like that, but this is a small step in the right direction, and we’re very happy,” she said.

Acting Anchorage Police Department Chief Ken McCoy, who’s also the first African-American to hold that position for the police department, also spoke at the event.

“I’m so proud and honored to be your police chief, and please know I will always be there, I will always listen, and we can do this together,” he said. ”It’s a great day, Juneteenth, I’m happy to be here, and let’s just celebrate.”

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