Juneteenth celebrated with parade, block party this weekend

Anchorage celebrates Juneteenth this weekend
Published: Jun. 17, 2023 at 1:33 PM AKDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2023 at 1:36 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - This weekend, millions of Americans will be participating in celebrations to commemorate the Juneteenth holiday — and Alaska is no exception.

Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth has its origins in post-Civil War Texas. On June 19 of 1865, a order was issued that enforced the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas that resulted in the freedom of nearly a quarter of a million enslaved people in that state alone. Celebrations of Juneteenth — a combination of the words June and nineteenth — began the following year, and spread throughout Texas and the South in the decades that followed.

Early Juneteenth celebrations had to be held at churches or segregated, Black-only spaces because of discrimination towards Black Americans. Events ranged from baseball games and fishing tournaments, to banquets and beauty pageants. In recent decades, lively street fairs, food festivals, parades, and concerts — and even political rallies.

Jasmin Smith is one of the organizers of this weekend’s events, which kicked off with a parade at noon on Saturday.

“Juneteenth is a part of American history. There are a lot of communities around the world who remember the day that they became free, or emancipated, or gained their independence, and we celebrate that here in Alaska as well,” Smith said. “It’s just a small piece of American history that deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated by all residents.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 — the first new federal holiday since 1983, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established. The Municipality of Anchorage made it a public holiday earlier this year.

All are invited to attend Anchorage’s Juneteenth event, which is slated to include 130 vendors, entertainment, and a health fair at the Delaney Park Strip 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the E Street and I Street blocks.