Juneteenth history and local observances

00:00:00 Speaker 1 

Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Renae Kimball, chief organizational equity officer of WNYIL. And I'm your host, Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program, Renae. 

00:00:17 Speaker 2 

Thank you, Ernie. 

00:00:18 Speaker 1 

And we're pleased to have you because you have all the details at your fingertips about a big celebration that's going to take place shortly, Juneteenth. Now WNYIL has always been about helping all groups within society ready to be able to function on an equal footing with each other, particularly individuals with disabilities, but people of color have had that challenge to them for a very long time. And it's good that it's being celebrated with Juneteenth. I bet you can give us some background on why the name is somewhat vague sounding, because I guess the communications in the 1860s were not as expedient as they are today. What can you tell us about that? 

00:01:14 Speaker 2 

Yes. Well, back in 1863, President Lincoln issued an Emancipation Proclamation, and it stated that all persons who were held as slaves within the rebellious slave states which were the Confederate states, are henceforth shall be free. 

00:01:31 

Meanwhile, the war, the Civil War was continuing, and not everyone in the Confederate territory would be immediately freed, and that's due to the fact they were under the Confederate control. So as a result, when the war ended, the Union sent 2,000 troops to Galveston Bay, Texas. 

00:01:54 

And at that time, they announced to the more than 250,000 slave Black people that they were in fact freed by executive decree. And that day became to be known as Juneteenth, by the newly freed African American people, and that took place on June the 19th, 1865. 

00:02:16  

And so Juneteenth is usually celebrated during the month of June, but during the teen days, although it has officially been declared as a national holiday by President Biden in 2021. And so now it is a national holiday, the 19th of June is a day in which a lot of businesses and industries are closed. However, the celebration takes place throughout the week of the teens. 

00:02:54 Speaker 1 

Well, it sounds like the federal government was a little late to the party. Haven't people of color celebrated this occasion for decades? 

00:03:03 Speaker 2 

They have been celebrating this occasion since 1866, not even a year early after they were freed. 

00:03:12 Speaker 1 

Ah, OK. But I imagine that Western New York has some particular activities to celebrate Juneteenth, what can you tell us about them? 

00:03:25 Speaker 2 

Well, Buffalo is celebrating their 49th annual Juneteenth celebration this year, and that's going to take place on Saturday, June the 15th, and it goes to Sunday, June the 16th, and it's at Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Park on Best St. in Buffalo. 

00:03:43  

And then Niagara Falls is going to have a Juneteenth celebration on Sunday, June the 16th. And that begins at 11:00 a.m. and it goes until 8:00 p.m., and it's going to be at the Niagara Cultural Arts Center or called the NACC. 

00:04:01  

Then there will be a second Juneteenth ceremony in Niagara Falls that will be held on Juneteenth, which is June 19th, Wednesday, and it's going to be at Legends Park on 11th St. in which there will be a flag raising ceremony, a five-on-five basketball tournament, golf tournament and of course, all types of entertainment and food, and that will begin at 11:00 a.m. 

00:04:27 Speaker 1 

Would you believe that we're just about out of time? I'm sure people will have questions. How can they reach you? 

00:04:34 Speaker 2 

They can reach me at area code 716-836-0822 ext. 508. 

00:04:42 Speaker 1 

Thanks so much for being with us, Renae. 

00:04:44 Speaker 2 

Thank you for having me. 

00:04:46 Speaker 1  

You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today was Renae Kimball, chief organizational equity officer of WNYIL. And I've been your host Ernie Churchwell.