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D.C. Set to Celebrate Juneteenth

Many District residents on June 19 will celebrate an official Texas state holiday: Juneteenth.

Juneteenth has been feted since 1865 as the day Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas announcing slavery had ended in the state.

Black Texans celebrated Juneteenth as an unofficial day of observance for many years until 1979, when Texas State Rep. Al Edwards (D-Houston) led the effort to make it an official holiday. Since then, 47 states and numerous municipalities across the country have recognized Juneteenth with festivals, picnics, concerts and community events.

In recent years, the governors of Virginia, New York and New Jersey have issued executive orders allowing employees to take the day off with paid leave. Some Juneteenth activists want it to be a national holiday and U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) introduced legislation in February to make that a reality.

In the District, residents will mark Juneteenth with a wide range of activities with the focus on Black political and economic empowerment and wellness. Additionally, the Bowser administration plans to use Juneteenth as an opportunity for its DC COVID-19 Community Corps to canvass District neighborhoods to encourage people to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

NATIONAL BLACK UNITED FRONT

The National Black United Front will have its Juneteenth Day of Service. Its goal will be to provide 100 families in vulnerable communities with care packages and resources “that can empower them to be more self-sustaining, according to a news release. Plus, volunteers plan a clean-up along the Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., Avenues, S.E. corridors. Later, there will be performances by The Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers along with vendors and demonstrations near the intersection of the two avenues named for the slain civil rights leaders.

For Haley Wiggins, executive director of The Family Place, which will enter its fourth year as a charter school this upcoming fall, the adult students who come through the doors of the school need these resources now more than ever, especially given what many of them as English language learners had to endure throughout the pandemic.

SISTERHOOD SUPPER

A group of Ward 7 and Ward 8 organizations are gathering for a Sisterhood Supper from 4-7 p.m. at Oxon Run Park in Southeast to celebrate Juneteenth. The female-oriented event will consist of fun, food and fellowship to kick-off a collective challenge to celebrate sisterhood through shared recipes to collective action and policy change to improve nutrition security and food justice, a news release said.

“COVID-19 has exposed the need to center self-care for the Black community, especially among women juggling motherhood, work and personal health,” Mary Bickford, owner of Market 7, an upcoming food hall in Ward 7, said. “One of the most important parts of our community’s liberation is achieving health equity: particularly in communities that lack the social determinants of health that enable a community to heal itself.”

The event will feature a local DJ and artists like Canadian-Nigerian singer Tolu Mide and a community supper representing the African diaspora. Event organizers are encouraging people to wear African prints to celebrate their culture and bring their stories and photos to capture during the storytelling session. Tambra Raye Stevenson, a Ward 8 resident who founded WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture, said at the event stories and recipes will be collected for the Sisterhood Community Cookbook “to capture the meals, memories and moments of this historic time we are living.”

Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner Jamila White supports the event, saying it meets a real need.

“Our community has been a food desert, and it will take bold steps to change that, but it all starts with building and fostering a real community,” White said. “I really believe fellowship, collective action and good food can be important ingredients in sparking change.”

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