- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 17, 2018

A diverse group came together Saturday in the District to commemorate the abolition of slavery with a street festival that highlighted black entrepreneurship, community outreach and the history of Juneteenth.

“I’m super excited just to see all of the color,” said Omaris Caceres, 19, who attended the city’s annual Juneteenth Festival in Southeast. “Coming from the other side of town, where you see a lot of gentrification and wealthy areas, it’s beautiful just to see the black community coming together and celebrating Juneteenth, which is such an unknown holiday.”

More than 500 people and 40 vendors attended the festival to commemorate the official end of slavery in the U.S.

“To us, it is about commemorating liberation,” said Claire Cook, an administrative organizer for the nonprofit ONE DC. “We are still in the struggle today with people in mass incarceration, unemployment, and affordable housing issues. Just having a space to celebrate and be happy about what we’ve been able to organize so far.”

ONE DC, which strives to preserve racial and economic equity in Shaw and the District, has memorialized Juneteenth for 12 years.

Zachari Curtis participated in the festival with the organization called Dreaming Out Loud, which works to initiate community-owned solutions to food inequity.

“We have had a long-standing relationship with the organizers ONE DC,” said Ms. Curtis, a supply chain manager for the nonprofit Dreaming Out Loud. “We have very similar values around racial equity and economic justice. We will always support anything they do in that spirit.”

Juneteenth celebrates when all slaves became free, months after the end of the Civil War in April 1865.

President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. It required states that had seceded to free their slaves, but Union troops could not enforce it in the midst of the Civil War. On June 19, 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to share the news with those still enslaved there.

On Monday, ONE DC hosts “Buy Black” to highlight black-owned city businesses.

“It’s very important to commemorate Juneteenth, especially since this country was built off the backs of their labor,” said Mkese Miller, owner of Passion Factor Candle Co. for 10 years. “It’s important for this event to stay live. It’s not about staying in the past, but it’s about remembering the people who paved the way for what you have right now.”

Like Ms. Miller, an artist who participated in the Juneteenth Festival is eager for “Buy Black” to acknowledge black-owned businesses and share his story of being a black business owner.

“I will say owning your own business as a black is a struggle and a lot of things to do,” said Dawda Oliver, owner of Earth Sand Art. “With these kind of events, you meet people, talk to people and make connections to get your business going.”

ONE DC also will host an open house from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to inform the community of it new building called the Black Workers and Wellness Center at 2500 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE.

“A lot of things we are focused on is making sure that when jobs come into the District that the people who live here have access to them and also ensuring that there are proper practices being had at these work places,” said ONE DC member Taylor Davis.

During the festival, graffiti artists painted a mural on the side of the center with the words “None Are Free Until All Are Free” to remind the community of all the work that has been done for liberation and the work that still needs to be done.

On Tuesday, ONE DC will host a community event to educate the community about the holiday and D.C. history, with historian C.R. Gibbs as the guest speaker.

Ms. Davis, 20, of Richmond, said she is glad ONE DC is celebrating black liberation and justice by hosting such events.

“I was familiar with Juneteenth growing up because I heard my parents and grandparents talking about it, but we never celebrated it,” she said. “But really the sentiment is the idea that no people are free until all people are free.”

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