Minneapolis marks Juneteenth after official holiday recognition | Race problems


Minneapolis, United States – On a sunny summer morning in George Floyd Square, a gardener lights the holy pole on a small wooden plate near the famous black and white mural of Floyd.

An inflatable house with a SpongeBob-themed house has been built in an adjacent church car park. Inside, children bounce and kick an inflatable beach ball while hot dogs, burgers and moccasins simmer on the black barrel grill.

“For Juneteenth this year, it’s something special. We focus on the future and the future is the children, ”James Johnson of the Worldwide Outreach for Christ Church told Al Jazeera. “For it to be a national holiday now, it’s something special and we want to express it.”

June 19, or Juneteenth, commemorates the day Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and told African American slaves they were free, more than two years after the end of the Civil War and the signing of the president. Abraham Lincoln of the Proclamation of Emancipation declaring slaves free.

The celebrations began the following year to commemorate the event, and since then the date has been celebrated as a second day of independence in African American communities. In recent decades, the movement to turn Juneteenth into an official party has grown.

A mural north of Minneapolis [Cinnamon Janzer/Al Jazeera]

In Minneapolis, the city’s human resources department recommended in April that Juneteenth be the city’s 12th paid party. May 14, Minneapolis City Hall he made it official, followed by the country as a whole when President Biden signed the 19th National Independence Day law became law on June 17th.

While joyful celebrations took place on Saturday in Minneapolis and its “twin city” of St. Paul, some events have nothing to do with recent moves by local and federal governments.

“Nothing changes,” Kevin Reese, founder of Until We Are All Free, a Minneapolis-based human rights organization run by people who were previously jailed, told Al Jazeera.

He was preparing to host a community event in the afternoon at a cafe in southern Minneapolis, with local performers and artists alongside opportunities for prayer and community conversations.

“It is another symbolic gesture of America towards the descendants of slaves. It really does nothing and there is nothing America can do other than make repairs … that satisfy me. “

Earlier this year, Until We Are All Free partnered with other community groups during the previous Juneteenths, but this year they are celebrating their own major festival event due to the group’s continued growth. “This will be our first annual event,” Reese says. “We are preparing for 500 people.”

A few weeks after Minneapolis designated Juneteenth as a holiday, Mayor Jacob Frey began pushing for George Floyd Square, which has been barricaded by the community since Floyd’s assassination, to reopen to traffic.

George Floyd Square has recently reopened to traffic [Cinnamon Janzer/Al Jazeera]

City Council members have accused the mayor of misuse of emergency powers during the pandemic he had a $ 359,000 contract with a community group to reopen the intersection.

Tony Smith, who spent the warm morning in a shady spot in the plaza, believes reopening is important for companies that have had problems due to the closure, but that memorials should be left in place and keep them.

He spent Juneteenth collecting donations for those from various homeless camps in the city through Catholic Charities, a local nonprofit organization.

“I usually bark and [spending Juneteenth in] loneliness, ”he told Al Jazeera. “It’s nothing to be happy about, Juneteenth. You know a lot of rage … When I heard that [Biden] it turned it into a national holiday, which took a little out of the rage. “

Tony Smith is sitting in George Floyd Square, Minneapolis, amid preparations for the Juneteenth celebrations [Cinnamon Janzer/Al Jazeera]

On the north side of Minneapolis, a large celebration throughout the parking lot, with a few booths and tents set up by community groups and another inflatable house, was quickly taking shape among a growing crowd.

As a passer-by he chats with volunteers setting up a canvas tent surrounded by black, red and green balloons about a “national holiday that is all ours: Juneteenth”, the founder and director of Black Bold and Brilliant and one of the event organizers, Wisdom Mawusi, is busy installing a space called the Black Man’s Cave.

“We wanted to do something and recognize, celebrate black men,” he tells Al Jazeera. “We are creating a good space for black men to honor and respect them and everything they do and the importance they have in our community. Sometimes they don’t get enough of that positive recognition. “

Throughout the park, as funk music plays in the background, Comer X. Henry, the peer recovery services manager of the Twin Cities Recovery Project, an organization that provides support and services to those with consumption disorders of substances, is one of the four men working to erect another tent.

He tells Al Jazeera that Juneteenth is “a celebration of the so-called freedom of slaves. To me it means a lot in two ways: one is that we are physically free. The second, my truth, is that we are still mentally closed and still depend on everyone except ourselves.

When it comes to designating Juneteenth as a municipal and national holiday, Henry says that “it’s definitely a big step and I think we’re going in the right direction, but it’s a little deeper and more complicated for me. [We’re] dealing with white supremacy and still suffering “.

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