Tri-Cities prepare for Juneteenth celebrations as federal holiday vote moves forward

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Keira Moore Majeed said she didn’t even know what Juneteenth was until just a few years ago. Now, she’s organizing her second annual Juneteenth celebration in Kingsport and expecting a big turnout.

“We’re expecting at least around 1,000, 1,500 people,” Moore Majeed said. “Instead of protesting, why don’t we do something to celebrate us, our ancestors, our culture and bring the community together.”

Juneteenth is the commemoration of the day in June 1865 when slaves in Texas learned of their freedom almost three years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Many Americans learned of the holiday for the first time last year during the racial justice protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and killing of Breonna Taylor.

There will also be a four-day Juneteenth celebration in Kingsport beginning June 17 that includes a virtual discussion on Thursday, a parade on Friday, an all-day celebration on Saturday, and more.

The holiday, gaining momentum and popularity, is now on the verge of becoming a federal holiday. On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously on a bill to make Juneteenth the newest federal holiday. The House passed the bill on Wednesday.

Langston Centre Supervisor Adam Dickson said the designation is a good sign from the federal government.

“It lets us know the federal government is realizing the need to be inclusive,” Dickson said. “The full context of freedom, the full context of what inclusion means, and I think Juneteenth helps us have those conversations.”

However, he does not believe the change would be considered right now if not for last summer’s protests.

“There has to be that negative catalyst it seems like when we deal with racial issues,” Dickson said. “My hope is that we can proactively pursue these issues in a constructive way so we don’t have to wait for an explosive moment.”

Dickson said he was more familiar with the date associated with Tennessee slave emancipation: August 8th.

Moore Majeed said that Juneteenth is a celebration of African-American slave liberation, the Juneteenth celebration is for everyone.

“It’s not just about the minority residents,” Moore Majeed said. “It’s not just African-American history. It’s American history.”

The Tri-Cities Juneteenth celebration will take place on Saturday, June 19th from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Memorial Gardens Park. There will be an all-minority musician concert throughout the day, kids activities, vendors and food trucks.

Moore Majeed asked that attendees park in the Dobyns Bennett High School or Civic Auditorium lots.

For more information about the Tri-Cities Juneteenth celebration, including line-ups and schedules, you can visit their Facebook page.

Additional celebrations in the Tri-Cities will occur in Bristol and at East Tennessee State University.

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