Milwaukee's full Juneteenth celebration returns for 50th year

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Juneteenth in Milwaukee held an extra special meaning this year as it was the first since the in-person event was canceled and replaced with a virtual one in 2020 because of the pandemic and it comes after it officially became a federal holiday.

"It's just great being out in the world, enjoying this parade in celebration," Brittaney Evans of Milwaukee said.

Evans and thousands of others observed the parade and festival on the city's north side. As the city and state have opened up, event goers said the parade and festival's return was a welcomed one, especially for children who could not experience it last year.

"This is their first time getting to experience the parade and then later Juneteenth Day, and then teaching them the importance of Juneteenth Day and why we celebrate it," Tamisha Triplett told CBS 58.

Juneteenth celebrates when freedom was proclaimed to all enslaved people of African descent in the South by the Union Army in Galveston, Texas, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The event also included a program where community and elected leaders spoke.

"This is the Independence Day for Black people here in America," Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said during his speech.

CBS 58 asked leaders what the holiday meant for them.

"We're about 402 years removed from the unlawful and unwilling arrival of enslaved Africans on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, but now what does the next 400 years look like?" Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes said in an interview. "That's what I think about. I think about liberation, I think about equity and I think about opportunity, because that's what Juneteenth should mean."

Governor Tony Evers was also in attendance. He said the holiday is a moment to reflect on the progress made in the Black community but also think about what more can be done.

"Not only celebrate the successes that we're having but we've got such a long way to go," Evers told CBS 58. "We just have to make sure that this is a way to energize ourselves going forward."

After more than a year since the start of the pandemic and a national reckoning on racial justice, leaders hope the holiday propels the community forward.

"Happy Juneteenth and let freedom ring," Congresswoman Gwen Moore told a crowd at the event.

This was the 50th year of Milwaukee's Juneteenth celebration, among the oldest and longest-running Juneteenth events in the country.

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