PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Today, the country will celebrate Juneteenth, the day when the final enslaved people learned they were free in Galveston, Texas, back in 1865.
President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act this week, making it the 12th federal holiday.
“A remembrance of what the black American has done to build this country,” NAACP Providence Branch President James Vincent said.
Juneteenth RI hosted their third annual celebration at Roger Williams Park in Providence and thousands of people came out to celebrate.
“We have hit a milestone and it was so exciting to see that now it’s an official holiday so this Juneteenth is an extra special celebration,” board member Angel Cooper said.
With the holiday being on a Saturday, on Friday Providence city workers had a paid holiday in honor of Juneteenth.
Mayor Jorge Elorza signed an executive order earlier this week recognizing the cultural and historical significance of the day.
Saturday’s event drew in over 130 vendors, making it their largest Juneteenth celebration to date.
Board member Angel Cooper told 12 News, the exposure is increasing learning and now is the time for action.
“We were freed and we need to understand that we aren’t just free from that, we are free from the chains of thinking that we can’t go forth, that we can’t be at the table that we can’t make the decisions,” Cooper said.
“Creating generational wealth, closing that economic gap. We need to talk about everybody and not make it one way,” Juneteenth RI President Helen Baskerville-Dukes said.
Other local events held Saturday, included the unveiling of a Rhode Island Slave History Medallion in Bristol. The event at Linden Place featured prominent local speakers, African dancers, and live music.