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Shelby Countians celebrate Juneteenth as a national holiday

Published: Jun. 19, 2021 at 9:04 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Today is Juneteenth and for the first time, Americans are celebrating the holiday recognizing the emancipation of enslaved people in Texas in 1865 as a national holiday.

The crowd was much larger for the second day of Juneteenth celebrations down at Health Sciences Park.

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Even though this is the 28th year for the Memphis Juneteenth festival, this year the celebration was the largest and the most historic.

Hundreds of people filled the Health Sciences Park on June 19 in a place where black people were not allowed years ago.

“We telling everybody that Juneteenth means freedom and we’re free to enjoy this park. June 19th, 2021, freedom day right here in this very same Park.” said Telisa Franklin, President of Memphis Juneteenth Festival.

Michael Perry, Youth Music Headliner Memphis Juneteenth Festival

“I feel proud. I feel to be here this day, my foot right here,” said Michael Perry, Youth Music Headliner of the Memphis Juneteenth Festival.

An outdoor Juneteenth museum educated festival goers about the holiday that has gained nationwide recognition after being designated as an official federal holiday Thursday.

“Many of the people that come to Juneteenth, they have a desire to celebrate but they just don’t understand why they’re celebrating. So this is an opportunity to get information and then go back to their own individual families, work houses or whatever and have conversations of change.”

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, the first black person elected Sheriff in the county, was honored at the festival for making history and contributing to the community.

WMC Action News 5 asked him what Juneteenth meant to him.

“When you, really think about it, the ones that came before me that did not have the opportunity that I have now and hoping moving forward as we move throughout my career and this city’s future that someone will come behind me.” said Sheriff Floyd Bonner.

Franklin said she hopes the Juneteenth Celebration can continue to grow and help Memphians of all races celebrate and honor black and American heritage.

“I am dedicated and committed making sure why people know why they’re celebrating Juneteenth and that’s going to make Memphis always want to come out to the Memphis Juneteenth Festival,” she said.

Franklin says the festival was so successful in its first year here at Health Sciences Park, that they plan to hold the celebration in this park for many years to come.

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