Dancers perform traditional West African dance at Broad Street Market in Harrisburg, Pa. June 19, 2021.
Harrisburg celebrates first Juneteenth as nationally-recognized holiday
"It’s long overdue to bring awareness to it, because so many people don’t even know what Juneteenth is about.”
(Harrisburg) — Lark Daniel has performed traditional West African dances hundreds of times, but dancing at Broad Street Market in the city’s first celebration of Juneteenth as a designated national holiday has special meaning.
“Oh my goodness, it was amazing,” Daniel said. “Amazing to be a part of it. It’s history making. It’s long overdue to bring awareness to it, because so many people don’t even know what Juneteenth is about.”
The newly-federal holiday commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Some of those people remained enslaved as long as 2-1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. On June 19, 1865, a Union Army general ordered the state of Texas to free people who were still enslaved there.
— Brett Sholtis (@BrettSholtis) June 19, 2021
Daniel said it’s “bittersweet” to have a holiday related to slavery — but having the date recognized will help to educate people and learn from the mistakes of history.
For lifelong Harrisburg resident Michael Summers, understanding Black history will give people broader context to things such as the Black Lives Matter protests and civil unrest that happened last summer, after then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, a Black man.
He noted that Pennsylvania passed legislation designating Juneteenth a state holiday in 2019, and many Black people know the history around it. He said he feels proud to see people from different backgrounds together at Broad Street Market, appreciating Black history.
“And that history is rich in value, and everyone needs to know it, because it’s something that they don’t often teach in schools, ” Summers said. “People need to learn it and know it, just like any other history.”