Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved blacks in the United States, lasts two weeks – but Cincinnati’s celebration began Tuesday morning.
The Juneteenth flag soared over the Cincinnati Art Museum’s Art Climb, the wide staircase that led from Gilbert Avenue to the museum as Lydia Morgan, organizer of the Cincinnati Juneteenth Festival, watched. Two more will appear at the downtown Hamilton County building and City Hall ahead of the June 19th holidays.
“When we celebrate July 4th, you see flags everywhere,” said Morgan. “We spread the joy. Next year we could have 20 buildings wanting to fly flags on their building. We welcome it. “
The Cincinnati Juneteenth Festival began in 1986 and is typically marked by a large festival in Eden Park on the holidays. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented it from proceeding as planned, but other events in 2020 – most notably the protests against Black Lives Matter sparked by the police murder of George Floyd – sparked renewed interest in their mission .
For Morgan, that mission is “To Make People Recognize the Legacy of Slavery and Freedom” in the United States.
“Last year we had a real battle with the legacy of slavery,” she said, adding, “I hope people will think about freedom, love and mutual respect. This is our story. There is nothing we can do about it, but we can make sure it doesn’t happen again. “
Zeta Wolf, who also watched the flag fly, didn’t know what Juneteenth was until she moved to Cincinnati 17 years ago. She is happy to see other people have the same learning experience.
“I think more people will know who we are instead of believing all the things that have been said because we are a strong people,” said Wolf, who is Black. “We believe in the USA. I will get tears in my eyes. We live here. We want to be a part of this place. We don’t want to stand out from the side or be pushed to the side. “
June celebrations, including a symbolic dance on the Ohio Riverfront, will last through the day itself. If you are interested in further information about the festival, you can find it here.