Brooklynites mark Juneteenth in its first year as a federal holiday

Brooklynites marked Juneteenth across the borough on Saturday, coming together at numerous celebrations for the first year the occasion was officially made a federal holiday. 

At Flatbush Junction, local leaders gathered to unveil a statue of George Floyd, whose killing by a Minnesota police officer last summer spurred thousands of Americans take to the streets in response to the police killings of unarmed Black people — and caused national legislators to mark the holiday representing the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.

“This Juneteenth arrives at a moment of sweeping generational change in America,” said Flatbush Councilmember Farah Louis at the statue’s unveiling. “And who represents this moment of change better than George Floyd?”

Local community members, elected officials, artists and performers raise their fists during a Juneteenth celebration outside Brooklyn Public Library on Saturday, June 19.Photo by Paul Frangipane

The statue, by artist Chris Carnabuci, will remain at Flatbush Junction for two weeks before it is transported to Union Square in Manhattan. 

Celebrations unfolded across the borough, including outside the Brooklyn Public Library’s main branch, where Floyd’s brother Terrance Floyd joined elected officials in marking the holiday. 

“Now we celebrate Juneteenth, we need to focus on that freedom, that strength that we have. We need to focus on it so we know that we’re free, we understand that we’re free, and do what we’ve got to do for our culture,” he said. “Silence is not good. Open your mouth, say what you need to say, don’t be afraid.”

Other local leaders applauded the making of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, and said that the recognition calls for celebration for the work already done, and acknowledgment of the work still to be done. 

“We need to let the rest of America know what it took to get to this point,” said Flatbush Assemblymember Rodneyese Bichotte. “If we are strong enough to build this nation, we are strong enough to keep going. We’ve gone this far, let’s see how much further we can go.”

The Brooklyn United Drum Line perform during a Juneteenth celebration outside Brooklyn Public Library.Photo by Paul Frangipane

Other celebrations included a bike ride through Brooklyn led by the Good Company Bike Club that touched upon several landmarks and sites relevant to Black history in Brooklyn, and a community concert held by the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in Park Slope. 

BKCM’s Juneteeth celebration.Rathkopf Photography