MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a holiday that’s getting long-overdue attention, especially in the Twin Cities.
WCCO looks at how Juneteenth is having a broader impact than ever before because of what unfolded in Minneapolis.
As the world reacted to the death of George Floyd in 2020, 17-year-old Emani Labon also reacted.
“I’ve been boots-on-the-ground protesting a lot for those lives,” Labon said.
The Minneapolis native learned firsthand about the present, and stumbled upon knowledge of the past.
“To be honest, I’ve never heard about Juneteenth in school, they never really taught it to me. The only time that I heard it was literally last summer with the death of George Floyd,” Labon said.
And she’s far from alone. Dr. Keith Mayes teaches African American Studies at the University of Minnesota.
“The mere fact that it’s gone unnoticed, gone unrecognized and gone untaught in schools, it’s really, really troubling,” Mayes said.
He says the holiday, which commemorates the day when slaves in Texas were finally told of their freedom, is a holiday that’s now being more closely observed because of what happened in Minneapolis.
“That sparked the Black Lives Matter movement, put new attention on police violence across the country. Juneteenth happens to be one the things the community rallied around last year, and of course it becomes new in the minds of many, even those who may not have actually heard of it before,” Mayes said.
And one local musical group is making sure people hear about Juneteenth in the most harmonious of ways. Gary Hines and his well-known group, Sounds of Blackness, released the song “Sick and Tired” after George Floyd was killed. Now, they’re dropping a Juneteenth single.
“The theme of Juneteenth is reparations, and we needed a song about reparations,” Hines said. “Juneteenth to me represents freedom, equality, justice, the reality of those, more than just being an idea. The only way that African Americans, and enslaved Africans, our ancestors, that we can honor their memory and acknowledge them and for them to take their rightful place in history, it begins with the commemoration of Juneteenth.”
So he and others are making sure that Juneteenth, a painful and triumphant chapter in history, is taken into the future.
“That’s a liberating day, that’s a very important day, not only in Black history but in American history as a whole,” Labon said.
Sounds of Blackness’s new single is officially live, and can be bought on iTunes or streamed on Spotify and YouTube.