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Memphis Juneteenth festival kicks off new national holiday

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 4:43 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Friday is the first day that Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved people in Texas in 1865, has been recognized in the United States as a national holiday.

Friday morning, the 28th annual Memphis Juneteenth Festival, kicked off the historic occasion with their celebration in Health Sciences Park.

There is a lot of excitement as people are celebrating the fact that Juneteenth is now a national holiday.

This celebration is also about reclaiming the land here at Health Sciences Park.

Local black owned business filled Health Sciences Park for the 28th annual Memphis Juneteenth Festival.

This year’s celebration meant more than in years past.

“This is history,” Telisa Franklin, President Memphis Juneteenth Festival said.

Franklin says she’s been waiting for decades for what finally happened Thursday when President Joe Biden signed a law making Juneteenth a national holiday.

“Love, love, love thank you President Biden thank you so much,” Franklin said. “Thank you for answering so many people some people have passed on and said one day they want people to recognize Juneteenth.”

“It’s something to be proud of,” Precious Houston from Lick the Bone BBQ said.

Friday the Federal building downtown was closed in observation of the new Juneteenth holiday but some federal organizations like the United States Postal Service had employees in the office Friday citing a lack of time to prepare for the newly recognized holiday.

All Federal employees will have Juneteenth off in 2022.

“I’m just glad to be a part of it,” Houston said. “Something that I can share with my son and my future kids that I was part of the Juneteenth Festival, first time out here to celebrate this huge moment.”

This year’s Juneteenth Festival was also historic considering it was the first time the celebration was held in Health Sciences Park, just a few weeks after the remains of Confederate General and slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife were relocated from the park.

Franklin says this celebration is about reclaiming this land where black people were not allowed in years ago.

“This park right now has a new meaning,” Franklin said. “It has new substance that everybody knows their welcome right here in this one park that once was not welcome by people that looked like me.”

The celebration is going on until 10 p.m. tonight and will start right back up Saturday at 10 a.m. with a Freedom Walk starting in the park.

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