NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Across New York City and the Tri-State area, celebrations on Saturday marked Juneteenth - the emancipation of enslaved African Americans - including events in Times Square and in Harlem.
Juneteenth was officially declared a national holiday this week, and people have quickly pulled out all the stops to mark the huge occasion.
Broadway brought the stage to the community to commemorate the end of 400 years of slavery in America with a 90-minute performance in Times Square.
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The Broadway League organized its inaugural Juneteenth event as part of its 'Black to Broadway' initiative - an effort to make broadway more accessible to everyone.
"Broadway League wanted to at the forefront of celebrating Juneteenth now and we're very, very grateful for it to bring all the people of Broadway - Black, brown, white, short, tall - all together to unite and enjoy," Brian Moreland of Broadway League said.
The social unrest and recognition by New York last year inspired many like the Broadway League to commemorate this historic day, but Juneteenth has been part of the fabric of many Black communities for years.
"Juneteenth for me has been a time for me to reflect, to connect to my ancestors," Athenia Rodney, Chief Event Officer of Umoja Events, said.
This is the 12th year that Rodney has put on the Umoja Events' Juneteenth celebration.
This year's event was bigger than ever at Herbert Von King Park in Brooklyn with an estimated 2000 people in attendance.
"Juneteenth growing in this expansion is a start of what we know what can happen in the world but we need to do more," Rodney said.
Organizers hope juneteenth continues to unite the community and bring about positive change.
Also in Brooklyn, a six-foot statue of George Floyd was unveiled at Flatbush Junction Saturday, created to honor the man whose police brutality death in Minneapolis last year sparked a movement for social justice.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced 11 landmarks across the New York state would be lit in red, black, and green in celebration of Juneteenth.
Additionally, Cuomo issued a proclamation naming June 19 Juneteenth in the state of New York.
"New York is proud to join the entire country in our first national commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans," he said. "While Juneteenth may be our newest federal holiday, the ethos we observe today - that independence, equality, and liberty for all are only guaranteed when we march as one towards those ideals; that the arc of the moral universe only bends towards justice when we work together to bend it - has always been the foundation of our national identity. I was proud to make this a state holiday last year because New York has always, and will always, stand with and support all those working to help our country live up to its founding ideals. Our thoughts are with all those who worked so hard and for so long to bring today's national celebration to fruition."
The following landmarks were lit in red, black and green Saturday night:
- One World Trade Center
- Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge
- Kosciuszko Bridge
- The H. Carl McCall SUNY Building
- State Education Building
- Alfred E. Smith State Office Building
- State Fairgrounds - Main Gate & Expo Center
- Grand Central Terminal - Pershing Square Viaduct
- Niagara Falls
- Albany International Airport Gateway
- MTA LIRR - East End Gateway at Penn Station
Also known as Emancipation Day and Jubilee Day, New York City kicked off its Juneteenth celebration with a block party Friday in St. Nicholas Park in Harlem.
RELATED | Performers announced for Juneteenth celebration featuring Broadway stars
The holiday observes June 19, 1865, when a Texas general told enslaved African Americans they were free.
The Emancipation Proclamation was passed a few years before then, but slaves weren't freed until the end of the Civil War.
Many have made a strong push to make Juneteenth a holiday, and it has finally happened.
More on the NYC Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan:
Universal NYC Baby Bonds: Expand NYC Kids Rise to every public school child
New York City will directly confront the racial generational racial wealth gap by expanding savings plans to every single public school kindergarten student next school year. This initiative will both open accounts and put a minimum of $100 into every account.
In 2016, Mayor de Blasio launched a baby bonds 529 college savings pilot in Queens School District 30 in partnership with the non-profit, NYC Kids Rise (NYCKR). Children in this district now have over $6 million to go toward their college and career training.
RELATED | Long Island 'Pickle King' Samuel Ballton honored ahead of Juneteenth
Building on success of the pilot, the Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan expands NYCKR through public-private partnerships to all school districts, providing universal 529 savings accounts to every public-school child, starting in Kindergarten this upcoming school year. The City will invest $15 million annually through 2025. Every public dollar is estimated to leverage 20-25 times in philanthropy, family savings, community scholarships, and investment returns by the time a child graduates from high school.
CUNY Scholarship Fund: Over 2,800 four-year CUNY scholarships for Black and low-income students
New York City will promote the education and career success of Black and low-income students by providing over 2,800 four-year CUNY ACE model scholarships valued at $4,000 per year. This $45 million investment will help cover gaps in financial aid, books, transportation, and advising for eligible students.
The program will serve 1,000 students at Medgar Evers College and 1,800 low-income students in the Taskforce neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID, NYCHA housing developments, and other low-income zip codes.
The Brooklyn Recovery Corps at Medgar Evers College: Paid internships, work experience and career prep for over 200 students a year
Medgar Evers College will launch the Brooklyn Recovery Corps to provide over 200 students annually with the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing economic recovery of Brooklyn, focusing on experiences that integrate science, business, public health, or the green economy.
The $900,000 annual investments ($4.5 million over 5 years) will student fellows will gain technical skills, academic credit or paid internships, work experience, career preparation support and engagement with the community, and STEM-focused career placement opportunities.
The Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity brings an equity-based approach to COVID-19 response and recovery efforts in the city's hardest-hit communities. Services and supports are tailored to meet the unique challenges of New Yorkers in communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. More specifically, the Taskforce has made a series of announcements to build generational wealth including:
--Employee Ownership - pathway for employees to succeed their employers
--New M/WBE requirements, mentoring and matching services
--Equitable Ownership - requiring at least 25% M/WBE and/or non-profit ownership in Affordable Housing projects
--NYC Acquisition Fund - $210M loan fund for M/WBEs and non-profit developers
In honor of Juneteenth, we're telling stories of what Black freedom means today, from a 94-year-old's quest for a national holiday to the fight for reparations to cultural celebrations. Click here for more stories from your city and around the country.
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