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Juneteenth to have greater impact this year amid pandemic, unrest

Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 11:42 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - June 19, or Juneteenth, is a holiday commemorating the day the last slaves in Confederate states were told they were free in Texas in 1865, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and over two months after the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army.

While the holiday has been celebrated since that time, it may be something that some people are just now learning about. The celebration, in some cases, is going to have a little more meaning attached to it.

"Especially in the time where the George Floyd incident happened there’s been more people, not only African-Americans, but people of different cultures wanting to know about African-American culture,” Brandon Jackson, Founder of Dreeam Sports LLC, said.

Jackson works with Cedar Rapids youth but with Juneteenth around the corner, he’s celebrating by starting a fundraiser to help people in the community.

Each year the African-American Museum of Iowa commemorates the day by showcasing the success of those in the black community. Because of the killing of George Floyd and the pandemic, it’s going to look a little differently this year.

“We knew wanted to still do a Juneteenth celebration,” LaNisha Cassell, executive director of the museum, said. “To make it impactful and have it done well, we needed to start working on it a lot earlier so we start working out in mid-April.”

Each day, the museum is putting out videos on its website and various social media platforms to allow people to engage in a part of history many people didn’t learn in school.

“It took two years for all enslaved people to learn that they were free,” Cassell said. “A celebration has been happening since June 19, 1865, not just in our country but in other places around the world.”

A celebration that this year is perhaps reaching a wider audience and connecting the past to where America is today.

“The George Floyd murder isn’t what caused this,” Cassell said. “That was more like rage that has built up over 400 years. Black people that saw that video saw another senseless murder or brutality against black people.”

Cassell said she couldn’t watch the video herself as she thought about her own children.

In the end, though, Juneteenth is still a day of jubilation for black Americans.

"It’s one of my favorite holidays just because of who I am it means my history my culture it’s people bringing awareness I want it to be celebrated like the Fourth of July,” Jackson said.

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