Milwaukee celebrates Juneteenth; 'Reflection, celebration, and joy'

NOW: Milwaukee celebrates Juneteenth; ’Reflection, celebration, and joy’

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- African Americans across the country are celebrating Juneteenth Day, including in our area. It's a day to reflect on the past and celebrate the freedom of Black people. 

"Juneteenth is a moment of reflection, celebration, and joy because we are free from enslavement,” said Clayborn Benson, director of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society. 

On this day, 155 years ago, the last enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, found out they were finally free. That was two long years after the emancipation proclamation was signed in 1863.

When asked how he felt Benson said, "Joyful, but the future is uncertain." 

It wasn't until the 13th Amendment was ratified that slaves were truly liberated. 

Civil Rights activists, Pastor Joseph Baring who leads St. Paul Ame Church -- the oldest Black congregation in Dane County -- said Juneteenth is considered Independence Day. 

"That's our freedom day, that's our Independence Day, that's our special day for Black people," said Pastor Baring. 

Every year, families and friends come together to rejoice. 

In the Harambee neighborhood, they painted "Black Lives Matter" in giant letters on the street near the intersection of MLK and Locust. 

Baring said Juneteenth is for everybody, not just Black people. 

"Anybody that believes in Black Lives Matter are part of the Juneteenth celebrations. If Black lives don’t matter, no lives matter," Baring said. 

Although Black people are honoring the day, many say there's still a long way to go. Wisconsin is considered one of the worst states for racial disparities. 

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