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Juneteenth: A Celebration of Liberty and Community

The celebration of liberation rang this Juneteenth, as Black Professionals Network kicked off the holiday with Shades of Melanin on Friday and collaborated on community events with the City of North Miami Saturday, June 19th. Rooted in equal parts education and fun, hundreds of attendees participated in learning the history of Juneteenth, followed by a reception filled with activities, food, and music. Black achievement was in full swing as U.S. Congresswoman Wilson received the keys to the city, enhancing the joyous essence that Juneteenth represents.

The Juneteenth celebration kicked off at 9 am, as the Miami-Dade NAACP Chapter collaborated with community leaders on the importance of unity and collaboration moderated by NBC 6’s Jawan Strader. Award-winning historian Matthew A. Pigatt touched on the origins of Juneteenth and its impact on not only Black history but American history, significant in the story of our nation’s evolution. Award-winning speaker, business leader, and philanthropist Bilal S. Little delivered a keynote presentation on “The Road to Economic Freedom”, laying out a new narrative of liberation and prosperity.

Renown as the oldest celebration honoring the end of chattel slavery in the United States, Juneteenth commemorates the long over-due freedom of the African diaspora in America. While the Civil War ended in April of 1865 and the Emancipation Proclamation was declared ending slavery, it took 2 years for the executive order to be enforced. Texas the “lone star” state held out until June 19th, 1865.

Following the words of wisdom from community leaders, an interactive array of activities ensued, from candle making with Natay’s Aromatherapy to music by DJ Way Trae, a fun 360 videobooth from Win Win Photbooth, and flag painting. The Juneteenth Flag was brought to life in 1997, by illustrator Lisa Jeanna Graf, and depicts a bursting new star on the horizon, representing a new freedom, a new people, and ultimately a new, blazing star. The red, white, and blue hues  communicate that the American slaves and their descendants were all Americans.  Children’s participation in the Juneteenth extravaganza represented the legacy of our past generations, carried on into the next generation of the future of Black America.

Cookout staples are at the hallmark of any Juneteenth celebration, teasing tastebuds with savory soul food. Shukin and Jivin delivered a montage of mac and cheese, greens, and fried chicken, while Déjà vu Sweets’s and Sweet Delights Cheesecakes provided an array of cupcakes and desserts had Juneteenth participants in sensory overdrive. Red drinks and food, commonly associated with Juneteenth festivities symbolizes strength, life, death, and spirituality.  Historically, the prevalence of red food may date back to the enslaved Yoruba and Kongo that were brought to Texas in the 19th century from present day Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and the Democratic National Republic of Congo. Some culinary historians have connected the red coloured foods to the Asante and Yoruba’s ceremonial occasions, in which they offered the blood of animals to the gods and ancestors.

While Juneteenth has made controversial headlines with its recognition as a national holiday, Juneteenth stands as day to remember, recognize, and rejoice in the strength and endurance of the Black experience.

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