It was just last year that Gov. Tom Wolf passed a bill officially recognizing June 19 as a state holiday celebrating freedom from slavery, known as Juneteenth.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd and other black men and women at the hands of police, Juneteenth takes on special meaning this year in the midst of protests and calls to action.
The Harrisburg Young Professionals of Color, La Cultura, Capital Rebirth and The Bridge are joining forces to host festivities in Harrisburg this Friday.
“It’s a celebration,” Mikell Simpson, founder of the nonprofit Capital Rebirth, said. “We have gained a lot of momentum. Now, let’s take a break for a day and celebrate.”
Young Professionals of Color will host events during the day, including time for rest and wellness activities, a cookout and a Juneteenth affirmation.
“We are encouraging people to take the day off,” co-founder Kimeka Campbell said.
In the evening, Capital Rebirth and The Bridge development group will hold a parade starting at The Bridge’s building (the former Bishop McDevitt school) that will continue to Market Street over to Herr Street and end at Sunshine Park.
There will be over 25 vendors, including healthcare providers, retail shops and businesses present, Simpson said. He added there will be no shortage of food as they plan to have enough hot dogs and hamburgers for over 700 people. Free T-shirts are available for the first 300 people, as well.
In addition to food and shopping, speakers will present on the history of Juneteenth and black culture in Harrisburg.
“Juneteenth isn’t something that is taught in schools,” Simpson said. “We want to get people educated.”
For the city’s weekly “Community Conversation” at noon, Simpson will join Mayor Eric Papenfuse along with representatives from All You Can Inc. and Harrisburg’s Peace Promenade to discuss the holiday.
A packed-full day, events will continue with the leadership of La Cultura at 3rd in the Burg. They will host pop up vendors in their storefront on the 200-block of Verbeke Street.
Closing out the Juneteenth celebrations, Capital Rebirth is showing Marvel’s “Black Panther” on their inflatable movie screen outside
“Everything is going to be black culture,” Simpson said. “That day is for us. All races are welcome, but it’s for us to celebrate.”
Simpson explained that mask-wearing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be enforced, and anyone who doesn’t comply will be asked to leave.
Even with the COVID-19 crisis complicating things, Juneteenth celebrations will continue, allowing time for people in Harrisburg to take a break, reconnect with friends and commemorate the important holiday.
“Police shootings are traumatizing, celebrating Juneteenth helps us remember black people have overcome before and we will overcome again.”
Juneteenth celebrations in Harrisburg will take place on June 19. Harrisburg Young Professionals of Color events will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Hurston Manor on Front Street. For more information on YPOC, visit their website. Capital Rebirth and The Bridge’s parade will take place at 5 p.m., starting at The Bridge Eco Village on Market Street. For more information, visit https://www.capitalrebirth.com/ or https://www.thebridgeecovillage.com/. La Cultura’s pop up shop at 3rd in The Burg will take place from 7-10 p.m. For more information, visit https://laculturahbg.com/.