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Juneteenth celebrations set in the Capital Region

Albany Juneteenth Organizer Trayvon Jackson, flanked by Capital Region officials.
Dave Lucas
Albany Juneteenth Organizer Trayvon Jackson, flanked by Capital Region officials, outside the South End Grocery store.

The Capital Region is gearing up to celebrate Juneteenth this weekend.

Juneteenth, recognized as a federal holiday last year, commemorates the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Texas finally learned they were free as the Civil War came to a close.

Albany’s event will be double the size of previous celebrations, according to organizers. It happens Saturday from 12 to 5 along South Pearl Street, and in the parking lot of the future South End grocery store.

Organizer Trayvon Jackson is Executive Director of the African American Cultural Center of the Capital Region.

"I take great pride, and honor and heart and all of the elected officials who chose to come and stand here alongside me today," said Jackson. "The challenge, of course, is that we have varying degrees of difficult relationships. And that's because I frequently breathe fire when I see a problem. And as they said, the problems that I focus on live in my heart, live in my passion, and live in these people."

Democratic Albany County Executive Dan McCoy calls on city residents, and all Americans, to work together to heal from sins of past generations.

"You gotta look at our history," McCoy said. "And you look at our great President Abraham Lincoln, January 1, 1863, signed Juneteenth into law and slavery to end. It took two years in Texas, to 1865 till the general that had to go there and tell them slaves gotta be free. And at that point, Texas had 250,000 slaves. 250. And it still takes time after that. Fast forward 100 years, Texas in 1979 makes Juneteenth the first official holiday of any state in this nation. And that's why I thought two years ago, we had to do the same thing and the state followed, everyone followed suit. You can't forget the past."

State Assemblymember Pat Fahy of the 109th district sees Juneteenth as a teaching moment.

"It is about remembering our history, taking pride in our history, and educating our young people to understand our history," Fahy said. "Fast forward to today. And we know that our hate crimes are right wing extremism and violence is the stats are disturbingly moving upward. So the more we can educate people, the more we can instill that sense of history and pride, the more we can fight back against the growth of these hate crimes, and some very, very disturbing trends that are only fueling the gun violence in this country."

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, a fellow Democrat, says Juneteenth is a time to come together.

“Every time we have the opportunity to tell the full, the full and rich history of our community, is an opportunity for us to get to know one another better, to come together better, to break down the divides, to break down the ignorance, to break down the fear and to truly become the community that we can be," said Sheehan.

Jackson says Juneteenth will also give the neighborhood a preview of the soon-to-open South End Grocery store, which will serve an area that has become a food desert.

"It's important enough for me to take joy in this moment. And ultimately, that's what I want for these people," Jackson said. "Because that's what they deserve. Not just because of where we live, and how we've decided to manage these resources, not just because it's difficult every day on a normal day, to be the best version of yourself, for the people you care about most. But because these people live on a land stolen from their ancestors, and where it was not stolen, it was forced upon them in bondage. So for today, for everyone, these people and myself, we're going to be happy because the South End grocery is opening. The people of this neighborhood are excited and ready."

Celebrations around the Capital Region include Schenectady's 22nd annual Juneteenth celebration Friday through Sunday hosted by the Hamilton Hill Arts Center. The opening ceremony is Friday evening in Vale Cemetery and an all-day festival is set for Saturday in Central Park.

Troy will hold its first Juneteenth parade 11 a.m. Saturday, stepping off at 6th Ave, marching under the Hoosick Street Bridge and on to Geneva Pompey Park where a "Family Fun Day" runs until 6.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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