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Communities around the Kansas City metro celebrate the first official Juneteenth holiday

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Posted at 5:35 PM, Jun 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-19 19:15:05-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Hundreds of people in the metro celebrated the first official Juneteenth holiday on Saturday.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday. It was passed in both the house and senate with bipartisan support.

Juneteenth commemorates the true end of slavery in the United States. More than 250,000 slaves in Texas finally heard the news of the Emancipation Proclamation two years after it was signed.

George Williams, President of Stand Up for Black Lives + Prairie Village, said there is still a long road ahead to freedom centuries later.

“I think what you don’t know can enslave you, and that was what happened in Texas with the 250,000 slaves, they just didn't know,” Williams said. "Once we learn and we’re free from that ignorance, we find some real experiences of freedom.”

He now hopes that his country will educate the next generations to do better.

“Those that are in power, you share history kind of from your perspective,” Williams said. “As a country we need to say we’re sorry, and as a country we need to right our wrongs for all the lives that were damaged and pay restitution.”

Jay Holbert is the President of Johnson County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He says real change will not come unless attitudes change from more people.

“You always have this resistance. So, that’s what we’re working against,” Holbert said.

While he feels welcomed in Prairie Village, Holbert says many minorities across the metro and America are still struggling to break the glass ceiling.

“Once you reach that ceiling you’re out of luck,” Holbert said.

Across town at the 18th and Vine District, there was another celebration.

Among the crowd of people were Jeanette Patterson and Rhonda Washington who are remembering the names of those who came before them. It puts this week’s recognition of the Juneteenth holiday into perspective.

“(I'm thinking about) Martin Luther King, I’m thinking about Frederick Douglas, Fannie Lou Hamer and Rosa Parks, there’s just so many that you can think about,” Patterson said. “It’s also an acknowledgment of the federal government that we did have slavery in America, because that doesn’t always come out.”

For Kevin Thompson, a young Black man, he hopes the fight of the Black community can one day be a shared vision.

“It took a lot for us to get here, we fought very hard to get here, and we want as black people to continue to fight for equality and I want all of America to have that same fight." Thompson said.