BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, Brooklyn — It’s been planned for a full year, but the city’s largest Juneteenth celebration took on even greater significance this year than its organizers had planned, after President Joe Biden made it an official federal holiday Thursday.
Athenia Rodney is the chief planner of Juneteenth NY, a week-long, Brooklyn-based festival that celebrates the holiday, and culminates in a weekend full of activities.
“To first hear that everyone unanimously signed it,” she said, referring to the U.S. Senate’s unanimous adoption of a resolution establishing the holiday, “It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is great!'”
PIX11 is a sponsor of Juneteenth NY, which will showcase African American culture, talent, art, and cuisine, as well as emphasize support for Black-owned businesses.
A sampling of some of the featured cultural artists were on the PIX11 Morning News on Friday to kick off the weekend’s events.
The Brooklyn United Marching Band and On Your Toes dance troupe will be part of presentations targeted at young people. Both groups are made up of people 18-years-old or younger, and will perform at the young people’s stage, set up at Restoration Plaza on Saturday and Sunday.
Restoration Plaza is in Bedford-Stuyvesant, on Fulton Street, between New York Avenue and Brooklyn Avenue.
Meanwhile, about a 10 minute walk away, at Herbert Von King Park, there will be activities targeted to adults, Rodney said.
“We’re going to have some vendors over there, and lots of food,” she told PIX11 News. Herbert Von King Park is on Lafayette Avenue between Marcy Ave. and Tompkins Ave. in Bed-Stuy.
Both the young people’s location and the adult locations are open to anyone of any age.
Also happening, and also open to everyone, is the Good Co. Bike Club second annual Freedom Ride. It happens Saturday and commemorates Juneteenth by sending thousands of cyclists down a route on which a variety of Black-owned businesses are located.
Andrew Bennett founded the club during the pandemic, in June 2020. This year, he said, “We’re going to leave from the Brooklyn Museum, on Juneteenth, then we head to Coney Island, and then we head to Ft. Greene Park.”
Also on Friday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation at a ceremony at an African American church in Paterson that made Juneteenth a state-wide holiday.
“I’ve got chills,” the governor said, minutes before signing the legislation. “I don’t usually get chills when I’m signing something,” he continued, “but this is a big deal.”
The signing followed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s similar action last fall.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had claimed last year that he’d make Juneteenth a city holiday by this year, but it still hasn’t happened.
Still, the organizer of the city’s largest Juneteenth celebration said that what matters most is that Juneteenth is recognized by everyone, now that it’s front and center in the national consciousness.
“To make it that it’s not just a holiday,” Rodney, “but it’s a day that people are actually learning something, that they’re educating themselves, and they’re growing from it.”