Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Celebration of Freedom Juneteenth Moves Downtown for Two Days of Festivities

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Celebration of Freedom Juneteenth Moves Downtown for Two Days of Festivities

Article excerpt

In our increasingly self-congratulatory culture of awards shows and faux holidays (do we really need a "National Give Your Boss a Hug Day"?), the Juneteenth festival puts things back in proper perspective.

A celebration of the day that American slaves actually gained their freedom (more than two months after the Emancipation Proclamation), the event moves to Soldiers Memorial Park, 13th and Market, this weekend for a two-day celebration of entertainment and education. Festivities began earlier this week with a picnic, workshops and a celebrity baseball game, all in the Ville neighborhood, where last year's inaugural edition of the St. Louis celebration was held.

Juneteenth originated in Texas, where the event is now a state holiday, and has spread to various cities around the country in the past few decades. According to festival spokesperson Charlotte Moten, the rise of a large celebration here was inevitable.

"For years, there have been various organizations in the area that have created some type of ceremony regarding Juneteenth," said Moten, a member of the Juneteenth Historical Commemoration Asso-ciation, formed in early 1995 by local businessmen, politicians and community leaders.

"But they never specifically coordinated an event for the metropolitan area," she continued. "Now that we are organized and endorsed by the city of St. Louis, we want everyone to come out and see what this year's slogan, `Choose to be Free,' really means to the community."

David Pokorny, manager of special events for the city, added that "everyone from Chesterfield to East St. Louis and beyond" was encouraged to attend the festival, one that he sees becoming a fixture on the event calendar.

"It was so successful last year in the Ville that we asked organizers to move it downtown," explained Pokorny. "We hope it grows to be part of our spring festival of events in the city. …

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