African Americans in and around Syracuse will once again recall the time when the last of the slaves finally found out about their freedom after the civil war. The City’s celebration of Juneteenth got underway Friday.
The city of Syracuse has its own connections to the issue of slavery and its abolition.
“After the great American civil war that was fought to hopefully settle the issue of slavery, president Lincoln’s funeral train came right in front of us down Washington Street.”
Former Syracuse university professor Rick Wright also recalls the city’s Jerry Rescue monument to the escaped slave at the center of the fugitive slave act, back in the mid-19th century. He says that makes it all the more appropriate to make sure we continue to recognize Juneteenth.
Mayor Stephanie Miner helped kick off the observance today with a flag raising at City Hall.
“It’s a time when we remember how much progress our country has made, but we only make that progress through struggle. So together we celebrate Juneteenth and reflect on the progress we have made as a community and we have made as a country being very cognizant of the fact that there is much that we still have to do.”
The festival continues tonight with an ancestral dinner starting at 5:30 in City Hall Commons. Tomorrow a parade at noon goes from Martin Luther King Junior school to Spirit of Jubilee park, where music, food and other activities go until 8:00.
Organizer Kevin Henry is happy to have the festival back on the South Side…but emphasizes it’s open to anyone.
“It’s not just for African American people; this is for all colors. We want everyone to come down and experience our food. We want you to walk away from it feeling like you experienced our culture.”
He emphasizes it should be positive, when often there’s too much focus on the negative. The festival is planning to be back in Clinton Square next year when Juneteenth will be marking its 150th anniversary.
More information and details can be found at SyracuseJuneteenth.org