Juneteenth celebrated as a federal holiday; Wichitans share hopes for future progress

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Saturday people across the county celebrated Juneteenth, the country’s newest federal holiday.

What is Juneteenth? It’s the day some of the nation’s last enslaved people in Texas learned they were free, back on June 19, 1865. The final slaves were not freed until later that year but the holiday is used to symbolize the end of slavery.

Juneteenth has been celebrated in some parts of the country since 1866 but only became a federal holiday a couple of days ago.

“This is historic, and it’s also something that we should be very, very proud to embrace,” said Adrienne McAlpine, Power CDC Community Relations Representative.

Interest in the holiday drastically increased after the unrest following the murder of George Floyd.

Lavonta Williams, First Vice President of the Wichita NAACP, said she feels the new recognition will allow more people to learn.

“To help our country understand the meaning of Juneteenth that was what I was happy about,” she said.

Malcolm Carter, a writer for the Community Voice, said he wants people to take time to do more than celebrate African-American culture.

“But also recognize where we come from as a country, and that slavery is deeply rooted in a lot of things that we have seen from the country,” he said.

Carter says educating others is a step that can happen right now, “I know there’s a lot of controversy over critical race theory and that being taught. But I think the most important thing is that once you educate people, you let them form their own opinion of what it is. But I think whitewashed history doesn’t do anyone really a service at all.”

Williams is passionate about sharing this history with kids.

“They don’t know what they don’t know and so this is the time for them to find out. Even if it’s just step by step, why are we doing this? What does it mean? And what does it mean for you? And you need to know that history,” she said.

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