ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Juneteenth, the newly-created federal holiday observing the end of slavery in the U.S. was made official when President Biden signed legislation on Thursday, June 17. Various events across the City of Rochester honored the holiday and the history it carries Saturday.
The events included a 5K race at Genesee Valley Park, a bike ride with ROC Freedom Riders, a celebration at the Strong Museum of Play and a poetry contest hosted by Save Rochester.
Rochester’s Juneteenth 5K event was joined by 200 participants. They raced from-and-to Genesee Park and discussed the holiday while raising funds for the construction of Rochester’s Historic Civil Rights Heritage Site at Baden Park.
“It is absolutely much more meaningful knowing that the federal government has now recognized Juneteenth as a national holiday everywhere,” ROC Juneteenth 5K race Director Gloria Johnson-Hovey said. “Juneteenth is American history.”
ROC Freedom Riders invited bicyclists for a 10-mile bike ride around the Strong Museum area with a focus on supporting Black culture and businesses. Apart from enjoying contests and music, those who joined the ride were also encouraged to visit the Strong Museum. In celebration of Juneteenth, the museum hosted a variety of activities honoring Black history, such as making holiday-inspired crafts, a meet and greet and story-telling sessions.
To spread awareness about Juneteenth, Save Rochester hosted its second annual Poetry Slam event on Saturday. The contest was held on Reservoir Ave., across from Highland Bowl amphitheater.
Contestants aged 12 to 19-years-old were invited to compete for the best poem centered around Juneteenth or the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The event’s top-three contestants won cash prizes, $300 for first, $100 for second and $50 for third place. The audience also participated and was able to play family games for a chance to claim VISA or PlayStation Network gift cards.
Despite recent legislation, Juneteenth has been celebrated unofficially for years. Excitement behind these events was fueled by Juneteenth’s permanent spot in federal history, becoming the twelfth official holiday in the U.S.