By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On Saturday, Minnesotans from all over celebrated Juneteenth, a celebration of the day in 1865 when the last American slaves found out they were free after the Civil War. This is the first year it’s now recognized as a federal holiday.

Over in St. Paul, Black Lives Matter Minnesota and several other activist groups, partnered up to celebrate on the State Capitol Rotunda.

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The voices of the Minnesota ensemble, Sounds of Blackness, filled the atmosphere as a diverse group of people gathered to commemorate Juneteenth.

“We have to all stand up and take part in this history,” said Miguel Romero Deleon, who came out to celebrate with three generations of his family.

Deleon said he sensed the change after a year of renewed focus on racial equality.

“Somebody today, because it’s a holiday, could be out here like me and feel inspired to help somebody else feel that change happening,” said Deleon.

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While Juneteenth celebrations were prominent throughout the Twin Cities, there was a group of teenagers who wanted to celebrate Juneteenth in their own way, in the suburbs. Members of the Black Student Union at Prior Lake High School hosted a food drive Saturday.

They collected food and hygiene products to donate to the Community Emergency Services of MN, while simultaneously using this a moment to educate.

“Being that we’re in a majority white community, I just want to express the knowledge that we have to other people if they’re willing to learn about Black history and Juneteenth,” said Johnea Rucker, a senior at Prior Lake High School.

These students plan to make this food drive a tradition now that Juneteenth is a federal holiday.

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“I mean it is a step forward…finally,” said Rucker.

Marielle Mohs