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“Juneteenth is the date of which, theoretically, the last slaves were finally informed of the Emancipation Proclamation and that they were in fact free. It’s when the Union finally takes Texas, kind of the furthest and last stronghold of the Confederacy. And that’s of June of 1865 a couple of months after the official end of the war,” said Dr. Jeff Bloodworth, history professor and director of the school of public service and global affairs at Gannon University.

Friday is the first anniversary of Juneteenth National Freedom Day, a special holiday for state employees in Pennsylvania. There will also be a celebration in Erie.

“The celebration of Juneteenth really I kind of lock into two or three words: the resiliency of Black people, of African Americans to endure that over centuries and still find a way to remain sane and healthy- as much in terms of health, not become insane- with waking up everyday under the manacles of oppression and extermination and threats of death everyday,” said Dr. Parris Baker, assistant professor and director of social work at Gannon University.

“I think Juneteenth is a chance for us as the African American community to really come together, stand up, let our voices be heard that we won’t tolerate any type of police brutality or the murders that are occurring in our community. It’s also a time for us to put some of the demands out there; and an uplifting as far as supporting Black economics; and also some changes in some policies with inclusion, diversity, and in the police force,” said Angela McNair, the organizer of Juneteenth Erie.

The celebrations this year will be brief due to COVID-19.

“We will be meeting there in the Perry Square at 12-noon, and we will be rallying and protesting, and then we will be marching to the courthouse steps and kneeling on behalf of those who have lost their lives at the hands of police officers and hoping for some policy changes. That’s pretty much going to be the chain of events this year,” said McNair.

Gannon is also holding a virtual discussion a 3 p. m. Friday on Facebook.

Dr. Baker says, “It’s an amazing time, but it’s a conflicted time. Clearly in America, we are conflicted still on the issue of race.”

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