“On a day when people of all races, nationalities and religions from across the country join hands to acknowledge a period in our history that continues to shape our society today, it’s fitting that the leader of our state weighs in to help us reflect, remember and continue to move forward in a positive way,” said Champion following the bill’s passage.
Juneteenth is the oldest national celebration that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Set for the third Saturday in June, it recognizes the public pronouncement of the abolition of slavery on June 19, 1865, the day the Emancipation Proclamation was read for the first time publicly in Texas. The announcement came two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and two months after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender in April 1865.
Today, Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. Under the new law, the governor’s proclamation can include “honoring this observance and recognizing the important contributions African Americans have made in Minnesota’s communities, culture, and economy.”
“The more we know about and learn from our past, the better we’re able to move beyond it,” said Champion. “This new law will help Minnesotans in every corner of the state learn about a major piece of our history and the experiences of those whose lives continue to be affected by its legacy.”
Champion invited Minnesotans who were part of creating the Juneteenth Celebration to commemorate the passage of the bill. He said he wanted a picture that reflected the origins and transitions of the Juneteenth movement in Minnesota.
In an interview last week, Champion said Minnesotans have to look to Prof. Mahmoud El-Kati, who taught Black history at The Way, Inc., a youth oriented community service organization located on Plymouth Avenue in North Minneapolis, where the 4th Precinct police station is today. “Mahmoud taught Spike Moss to understand the history and struggle of Black people, and Moss, in turn reached out to Ora Hokes and other Freedom Fighters to create an event that would honor and appreciate Black youths and Black families,” he said.
“At that time, Spike was youth director at the Way. And based on teachings of Mahmoud El-Kati, he created Freedom Day in 1970. Without permission or permit, the community celebration emerged as a major community celebration and in subsequent years, a Youth Appreciation Day was created that featured competitions in athletics and arts. That event took place the week before Freedom Day and Youth Appreciation Day high achievers were honored on Freedom Day,” he said.
To be continued …