Black ancestors, civil rights heroes to be honored during Juneteenth celebrations in Brooklyn

Council Member Farah N. Louis addresses reception.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Brooklyn Council Member Farah N. Louis says she will honor on Saturday Black ancestors and civil rights heroes during the “Second Independence Day” commemorating Juneteenth celebrations in Brooklyn.

“Juneteenth, our annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery on June 19, 1865, has been recognized by Black Americans since the 1880s,” Louis, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, told Caribbean Life on Tuesday. “And this ‘Second Independence Day’ continues to resonate in new ways.

“This year’s celebration comes at a moment of sweeping social and generational change,” added the representative for the 45th Council District in Brooklyn. “Across the country, Americans are reckoning with past sins and looking to build a more equitable future.

“In that same spirit, on Saturday, we will honor our Black ancestors and all those civil rights heroes who fought for freedom before us,” she continued. “We are also going to recommit ourselves to the fight for equality with a 45-minute selection of speeches, prayer, poetry, music, dancing and drumlines.”

Louis said her office organized last year’s inaugural Juneteenth celebration, at the Brooklyn Public Library, at Grand Army Plaza.

She described that event as “an enormous success,” and, as a result, she said “it likely contributed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo recognizing Juneteenth as an official state holiday.

“Join us this Saturday, as we continue to break barriers, build community and make history,” Louis urged.

She also said that, at 8:00 a.m., on Saturday, she will unveil a statue of George Floyd to mark the start of Juneteenth.

The council member said the six-foot-tall sculpture was created by artist Chris Carnabuci and will be displayed at Flatbush Junction, for about two to three weeks, before moving to Union Square in Manhattan.

Louis said she “very much appreciates” Confront ART and the We Are Floyd Foundation, which were “actively involved in the sculpture’s selection, construction and transportation.”

Among those expected to speak at the unveiling is George Floyd’s brother, Terrence Floyd.

Louis said rapper and poet Papoose will recite a poem he wrote in honor of George Floyd.

A full Juneteenth rally and “Cel-Liberation” will follow at 10:00 am at the Brooklyn Public Library.

Louis said performers will include P.U.S.H Dance Team; Ashley Richards; Blue Angels Drumline; and Brooklyn Untied Drumline.

Community members visit one of the murals at George Floyd Square, now behind barricades that formerly blocked the street, after city employees began to reopen George Floyd Square, the area where George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody the year before, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. June 3, 2021. REUTERS/Nicole Neri, File

According to Juneteenth.com, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

From its Galveston, TX origin in 1865, Juneteenth.com said the observance of June 19th, as the African American Emancipation Day, has spread across the United States and beyond.

“Today, Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom, and emphasizes education and achievement,” it said. “It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings.

“It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future,” Juneteenth.com added. “Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long overdue.”

It said that, in cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are “joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today.

“Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society,” Juneteenth.com said.

Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) noted the commemoration of the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, “when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas declaring the abolition of slavery two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War.

“With their freedom, the original sin of the American experiment came to an end, and a chapter— of optimism and promise—opened. Juneteenth’s prolific significance continues to resonate across our global Diaspora,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told Caribbean Life. “Whether you are from the Caribbean or Africa, born in America or abroad, Juneteenth marks when many of our ancestors were liberated from bondage.

“However, the realization that, although free, Black Americans continue to face racial discrimination, inequality, terror; and violence is still cause for concern and a clarion call for action,” added Clarke, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Taskforce on Immigration, a senior member of the US House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, and a senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

“Juneteenth is more than a celebration; it is a reminder of the centuries-long painful plight of enslaved people,” the congresswoman continued. “We must never forget the sacrifices of our ancestors that paved the way for us to stand here today, the road to tomorrow. We honor our ancestors and will continue the work in their honor.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also told Caribbean Life that the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 “should have granted people of African descent in the United States rights and privileges that still have yet to be fully realized.

“We are not collectively yet free from this system of privilege; but, like the ancestors, we will celebrate Juneteenth because we believe as our ancestors did in true freedom,” said the son of Grenadian immigrants. “And also, as they did, we carry on with the pragmatic hope; it is coming.

“As a nation seems to be waking up to the importance of this holiday, we will continue to push in an effort to create the transformational changes, the freedoms, promised 150 years ago but not yet received,” Williams added.

Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, said Juneteenth is “a day of recognition for people of color across the nation, and I am glad to see more people, of diverse backgrounds, celebrating.

“Here, in New York, we are fortunate to – at last – be able to commemorate Juneteenth, a holiday marking the emancipation of slaves in the United States, as an official holiday,” said the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “As we continue to advocate for social justice reform today, we must not forget history. I am proud to celebrate this holiday with our wonderful community in Brooklyn.”

Haitian-born Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene said “this historic moment is an important reminder of the struggle that the African-American community has gone through for centuries in the battle for acceptance, equality and equal rights on the global spectrum, a struggle that continues in present day America.

“The key to equality is education, acceptance, and appreciation for one another,” said Dr. Eugene, who represents the 40th Council District in Brooklyn. “And, by working together and focusing on the common good that we all embody as human beings, we honor our ancestors by continuing the journey towards equality and respect for all people, regardless of race, gender, nationality or religion.

“On Juneteenth, we celebrate the freedom of the African-American community, but we acknowledge that we are not truly free until everyone can live and work in a peaceful and respectful environment as human beings,” added Eugene, a candidate for Brooklyn Borough President.

Veteran Caribbean legislator Assemblyman N. Nick Perry noted that, 156 years ago, on Jun. 19, 1965, “thousands of Black toiling in the fields of Texas and other southern states received the late news that their freedom had been withheld from them, for more than six months by rebellious slave masters who had refused to acknowledge the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln.

“As we commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth, it is important for us to remain cognizant of the fact that true freedom, including economic freedom is still an elusive dream for millions of Black Americans, and continue to be denied their rights and equal opportunity in today’s America,” said Jamaican-born Perry, who represents the 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn.

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