Louis hosts Juneteenth celebrations in Brooklyn

Council Member Farah Louis unveils George Floyd Memorial Sculpture with Terrance Floyd, the brother of George Floyd.
Office of Council Member Farah N. Louis/ J. Noir Photography

Haitian American New York City Council Member Farah N. Louis on Saturday unveil a statue of George Floyd to kickoff Juneteenth celebrations in Brooklyn, New York.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was murdered in Minneapolis, Minn., while being arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit US$20 bill.

During the arrest, Derek Chauvin, a white police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, resulting in Floyd’s death.

Amid nationwide protests and global outrage, Chauvin was convicted earlier this year in Floyd’s murder.

Louis, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, said the six-foot-tall sculpture of Floyd, which was created by artist Chris Carnabuci, will be displayed at Flatbush Junction in Brooklyn for about two to three weeks before moving to Union Square in Manhattan.

Louis, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn, also honored on Saturday Black ancestors and civil rights heroes during the “Second Independence Day” commemorating Juneteenth celebrations.

“This sacred ‘Second Independence Day’ continues to resonate in new ways,” she told Caribbean Life afterwards. “This year’s ‘Cel-Liberation’ came at a moment of sweeping social and generational change.

“Across the country, Americans are reckoning with past sins and working to build a fairer and more just future for the nation,” she added. “In that spirit, on Saturday, we honored our Black ancestors and all those civil rights heroes who fought for freedom before us with a historic and unforgettable 45-minute rally at the Brooklyn Library at Grand Army Plaza that included speeches, prayer, poetry, music, dancing and drumlines.

“I was so proud to be joined by Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo, Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte (Hermelyn), Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for the first Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday,” Louis continued. “Special thanks to all the young people – the poets, musicians, artists, activists and scholars – who made our celebration possible.

“The passion, talent and imagination among our youth is truly remarkable,” she said. “You guys are helping to lead the charge for change, and I promise to walk with you every step of the way.”

Brooklyn United alongside Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn, Council Member Farah Louis and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Office of Council Member Farah N. Louis/ J. Noir Photography

Louis said her office also 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 (New York) Gov. Andrew Cuomo recognizing Juneteenth as an official state holiday.

Last Thursday, Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke and members of a congressional delegation joined United States President Joe Biden and Vice President, Caribbean American, Kamala Harris for the signing ceremony of the historic Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

The day before, in an overwhelming vote of 415-14, the US House of Representatives passed S. 475, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, to commemorate Juneteenth, the national remembrance of the end of chattel slavery in the United States, as a US federal holiday.

“I am so proud to join President Biden, Vice President Harris and my colleagues for the singing this historic legislation into law,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told Caribbean Life after the signing ceremony.

“This year commemorates 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,” added the representative for the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “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,” continued Clarke, chair of the US Congressional Black Caucus Taskforce on Immigration, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and a senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. “Whether you are from the Caribbean or Africa, born in America or abroad, Juneteenth marks when many of our ancestors were liberated from bondage.”

Bichotte Hermelyn, another daughter of Haitian immigrants, noted on Saturday that Juneteenth, marks the day in 1865 that troops arrived in Texas and freed enslaved people.

“The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that, as of Jan. 1, 1863, all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union ‘shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free’”, said Bichotte Hermelyn, who represents the 42nd Assembly District and chairs the Brooklyn Democratic Party.

“On this day, let us celebrate joy, unity and Black freedom together,” she added.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, said “Juneteenth celebrates the freeing of enslaved Americans – who built this country on their backs – but injustice persists today.

“As we celebrate Juneteenth this year, for the first time as a national holiday, we must recall the history of this momentous day while ensuring that the lessons learned are preserved and taught to future generations,” Williams said.

Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, the daughter of St. Martin and Aruban immigrants, said Juneteenth marks “the arduous journey to freedom endured by African Americans from 1619 to the present; the faith, resilience and fortitude demonstrated by a people yearning to be free, and the resistance to that freedom by enslavers and planters in Texas.

“This day marks the beginning of a new chapter of hope in the life of African Americans that is still felt to this day – the day when they will finally be free from oppression in North America,” added the representative for the 43rd Assembly District in Brooklyn.

“As a Black New York State legislator of Caribbean heritage, who has been inspired and shaped by the African American struggle for freedom, I salute the African American community and pledge my allegiance to the continued struggle for true freedom shared in our Diaspora,” Richardson continued.

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