Black business owners and advocacy groups in Springfield discuss significance of Juneteenth

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 10:17 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The first new federal holiday in nearly four decades became official Thursday, and it is only a few days away.

President Joe Biden signed legislation establishing Juneteenth, the date commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, as a national holiday.

While many people throughout the country have celebrated the date for several years, a whole new sense of excitement and emotion is likely for many Americans across the country as June 19 approaches.

”We have all these other holidays that we recognize as holidays,” Justyn Pippins with Minorities in Business said. “Why not recognize the end of slavery as a national holiday?”

The holiday celebrates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in Gavelston, Texas on June 19, 1865.

“Juneteenth is the celebration of freedom, resilience, community and paying tribute to those that have gone on before us,” Springfield NAACP Kai Sutton said. “It’s a very significant part of history.”

Juneteenth will become the first new federal holiday since 1983, which marked the start of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

”Long overdue,” Blu Styles business owner Rod Pickett said. “I mean that’s the first thing I heard. The fact it’s even being thought about as a holiday at this particular time is a very good thing.”

The historic moment follows a year of cries for racial justice across the country. May marked one year since the death of George Floyd.

”There’s a lot of stuff going on and a lot of stuff still going on,” Pickett said. “It’s showed us as culture, as a United States we need to come together a little more. There’s a lot of things going on that’s kind of keeping us divided. So the fact there is something we’re trying to do unite, is always a good thing.”

Pickett and others say the holiday could help spark conversation.

”You seek progress,” Will Walker said. “It may be small steps. But it is progress. And it still gives us hope, you know? The conversation continues. You know, we have that hope that things will continue to get better and we as a country will come and be more united. You know, we’re all one people. We’re Americans.”

And some feel confident they will see a lot more of that conversation right here in Springfield.

”The Springfield community does a lot to support underrepresented folks in the neighborhood,” Pippins said. “They support us in a lot of things that we do. So it’s always, everyday in Springfield’s an opportunity to create dialogue and move that needle.”

The holiday will certainly reflect on the nation’s past and an important historical moment, but many say it is also a call to action.

”It is something that we can build on,” Pickett said. “These are bricks that we can build on for the bigger goal, and the bigger goal being equality for all.”

The NAACP is hosting a celebration on Saturday at Silver Springs Park from noon to 4 p.m. Leaders with the organization say participants can expect to connect with local businesses, organizations, meet new people and learn about the history and find ways to offer support going forward.

The Springfield NAACP will also be collecting sunscreen, bug spray and tarps for the unsheltered. There will be food and music at the event.

United Community Change is also hosting a walk on Saturday.

State offices will be closed Friday due to the new holiday, and Greene County government offices will close at noon.

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