KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Friday is Juneteenth, a holiday marking the last of the enslaved black population in Galveston, Texas, receiving word that they were officially free.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation passed in 1863, ending slavery on paper, there were still more than 250,000 enslaved people in Texas alone who didn't know they were free until 1865.
According to Juneteenth.com, "On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America."
Juneteenth has been celebrated for several years in states across the country.
It was brought to Kansas City in 1980 by Horace Peterson III. He was the founder of the Black Archives of Mid-America.
In its ninth year as a festival, Juneteenth KC continues to share the importance of this holiday through various activities, events, screenings and workshops.
"The story behind Juneteenth and why it became that festival format is because that’s when families after slavery, they came together," Juneteenth KC Program Director, Makeda Peterson said. "They reunited because we had been ripped apart from our families due to the other plantations and so Juneteenth was about finding your family, coming back as a community."
It's also known as Emancipation Day or, the second Independence Day.
While thousands of people usually gather around the 18th and Vine District to celebrate the annual event, due to COVID-19, Juneteenth KC is hosting celebrations virtually.
On the website, there are a number of discussions, activities and workshops happening throughout the month to celebrate.
In recent weeks, after nationwide protests sparked a conversation of police brutality and racial injustice, several corporations and businesses announced Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Peterson said while this is good news, she hopes there is more action and education surrounding the day.
"And this is all wonderful and we love to see it," Peterson said. "Juneteenth is all about action even further down the road, continuing on and continuing to educate, changing policy, changing legislature."
The organization works with several community partners across the metro, including Urban Community Connections.
The organization typically goes out to different community centers and churches throughout the city to do market-style free food giveaways. COVID-19 transitioned them to a drive-thru method and now they're bringing that drive-thru method to the Juneteenth celebrations to help families in need.
"There's always been that aspect of nonprofits being in large demand, but due to the COVID-19 crisis, it has drastically increased," Urban Community Connections Program Director, Jessica Bentley-Johnson said. "And so we're seeing an increase in families and members of the community that we wouldn't typically see visit food pantries."
Johnson stated some of the sponsors decided to bring all the resources together, along with the food distribution to provide wrap-around services for the families this weekend.
The event will be held at the Gregg Klice Community Center from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 20.
Throughout the month of June, Juneteenth KC is also hosting a scavenger hunt called, "The Hunt" which explores historical African American sites across the metro.
For a list of scheduled events, dates and times on Juneteenth celebrations, visit the event website.