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Juneteenth, recalling end of slavery, is marked across US

Parades, picnics and lessons in history marked Juneteenth celebrations Saturday in the U.S., a day that carried even more significance after Congress and President Joe Biden created a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery.

A new national holiday was “really awesome. It’s starting to recognize the African American experience,” said Detroit artist Hubert Massey, 63. “But we still have a long way to go.”

In Detroit, which is 80% Black, students from University Prep Art & Design High School dodged rain to repaint Massey's block-long message, “Power to the People,” which was created last year on downtown Woodward Avenue.

Opal Lee, 94, reacts to one of the many signs held by those participating in her annual Juneteenth walk on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. Lee has been advocating for Juneteenth to be a federal holiday for many years and succeeded in her goal when President Joe Biden signed a bill on Thursday, making Juneteenth a national holiday. (Amanda McCoyStar-Telegram via AP)

The ‘o’ in “Power” was a red fist in memory of George Floyd and other victims of excessive force by police, Massey said.

“We did the original," said Olivia Jones, 15, leaning on a long paint roller. “It's important that we return and share that same energy.”

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. It was about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Southern states.

Community members march through Fort Worth's Historic Southside during Opal Lee's annual Juneteenth walk on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. Lee has been advocating for Juneteenth to be a federal holiday for many years and succeeded in her goal when President Joe Biden signed a bill on Thursday, making Juneteenth a national holiday. (Amanda McCoyStar-Telegram via AP)

Biden on Thursday signed a bill creating Juneteenth National Independence Day. Since June 19 fell on a Saturday, the government observed the holiday Friday. At least nine states have designated it in law as an official paid state holiday, all but one acting after Floyd, a Black man, was killed last year in Minneapolis.

In Galveston, the birthplace of the holiday, celebrations included the dedication of a 5,000-square-foot mural titled “Absolute Equality.” Opal Lee, 94, who was at Biden's side when he signed the bill, returned to Fort Worth, Texas, to lead a 2.5-mile walk symbolizing the 2 1/2 years it took for slaves in Texas to find out they’d been freed.

Officials in Bristol, Rhode Island, unveiled a marker that describes the seaport's role in the slave trade. The marker was placed at the Linden Place Museum, a mansion built by Gen. George DeWolf, who was a slave trader. The Rhode Island Slave History Medallion organization raises public awareness about the state's role in slavery.

Opal Lee, 94, walks towards downtown during the first nationally recognized Juneteenth holiday on Saturday, June 19, 2021 In Fort Worth, Texas. Lee makes the 2.5-mile walk to symbolize the two and a half years it took for slaves in Texas to realize they had been freed. (Amanda McCoyStar-Telegram via AP)

Food, live music, games and poetry readings were on the agenda at a park in Kansas City, Missouri, at an event organized by Black Rainbow, a relatively new group advocating for oppressed people.

“Given the last year of trauma, brutality and grief that the Black community suffered on a daily basis, it is essential to our survival that we make moments for joy, for love and for celebrating our resilience,” said co-founder Ryan Sorrell.

Hundreds of people gathered for a free concert in New York's Times Square organized by The Broadway League, the trade group for the Broadway entertainment industry.

People attend a free outdoor event organized by The Broadway League as celebrations during Juneteenth take place at Times Square Saturday, June 19, 2021, in New York. Parades, picnics and lessons in history marked Juneteenth celebrations in the U.S., a day that marks the arrival of news to enslaved Black people in a Texas town that the Confederacy had surrendered in 1865 and they were free. (AP PhotoEduardo Munoz Alvarez)

A Juneteenth parade was held in Evanston, Illinois, a Chicago suburb that is using tax revenue from marijuana sales to offer housing grants to Black residents for past discrimination and the lingering effects of slavery.

New York civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton offered a tough message during a speech at his National Action Network, saying Senate Republicans who voted unanimously to make Juneteenth a federal holiday should also support Democratic bills that change voting laws and make it easier to crack down on rogue police officers.

“The celebration of Juneteenth is not a party. ... The way to deal with Juneteenth now is to deal with where race is in 2021,” Sharpton said.

Selena Quinn, from left, LaVon Fisher-Wilson and Traci Coleman perform during a free outdoor event organized by The Broadway League as Juneteenth's celebrations take place at Times Square Saturday, June 19, 2021, in New York. Parades, picnics and lessons in history marked Juneteenth celebrations in the U.S., a day that marks the arrival of news to enslaved Black people in a Texas town that the Confederacy had surrendered in 1865 and they were free. (AP PhotoEduardo Munoz Alvarez)

People try to see a free outdoor event organized by The Broadway League as celebrations take place during Juneteenth at Times Square on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in New York. Parades, picnics and lessons in history marked Juneteenth celebrations in the U.S., a day that marks the arrival of news to enslaved Black people in a Texas town that the Confederacy had surrendered in 1865 and they were free. (AP PhotoEduardo Munoz Alvarez)

People attend a free outdoor event organized by The Broadway League during Juneteenth celebrations at Times Square on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in New York. Parades, picnics and lessons in history marked Juneteenth celebrations in the U.S., a day that marks the arrival of news to enslaved Black people in a Texas town that the Confederacy had surrendered in 1865 and they were free. (AP PhotoEduardo Munoz Alvarez)

People watch a free outdoor event organized by The Broadway League during Juneteenth celebrations at Times Square on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in New York. Parades, picnics and lessons in history marked Juneteenth celebrations in the U.S., a day that marks the arrival of news to enslaved Black people in a Texas town that the Confederacy had surrendered in 1865 and they were free. (AP PhotoEduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Women wait to perform during a free outdoor event organized by The Broadway League during Juneteenth celebrations at Times Square on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in New York. Parades, picnics and lessons in history marked Juneteenth celebrations in the U.S., a day that marks the arrival of news to enslaved Black people in a Texas town that the Confederacy had surrendered in 1865 and they were free. (AP PhotoEduardo Munoz Alvarez)

People wait to perform during a free outdoor event organized by The Broadway League during Juneteenth celebrations at Times Square on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in New York. Parades, picnics and lessons in history marked Juneteenth celebrations in the U.S., a day that marks the arrival of news to enslaved Black people in a Texas town that the Confederacy had surrendered in 1865 and they were free. (AP PhotoEduardo Munoz Alvarez)