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'A Day To Reflect': The City Of Boston Celebrates Juneteenth

Boston Mayor Kim Janey holds the hand of Tuskegee Airman Enoch “Woody” Woodhouse as he turns the lever to raise the Juneteenth Flag at a ceremony at City Hall on Friday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston Mayor Kim Janey holds the hand of Tuskegee Airman Enoch “Woody” Woodhouse as he turns the lever to raise the Juneteenth Flag at a ceremony at City Hall on Friday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

City leaders and residents gathered at Boston City Hall on Friday to celebrate Juneteenth, the holiday marking the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned they had been free for two years.

The English High School drum corps played as Acting Mayor Kim Janey and others raised the Juneteenth flag.

The Juneteenth flag flies in front of Boston City Hall on Congress Street. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Juneteenth flag flies in front of Boston City Hall on Congress Street. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Janey said the day is about joy as much as it's about honoring ancestors.

“We've been celebrating Juneteenth for a long time in the city of Boston and certainly in the Black community," she said. "But this is a day to reflect, to remember the hardships and to recommit ourselves to the work moving forward.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins noted Massachusetts made Juneteenth a holiday last year. President Biden signed a bill Thursday making it a federal holiday as well, with unanimous support from the Senate and minor dissent from the House.

"But I want to be clear, recognition is not reform, celebration is not liberation," Rollins said. "We must work to ensure Black people and the BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] community have equal access to education and housing," Rollins said.

"That's how we honor the true spirit of Juneteenth."

The flag-raising ended with a rendition of the unofficial Black national anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

An array of weekend events are planned to commemorate the holiday, compiled by the nonprofit King Boston. The MFA is hosting a "community celebration" event with free admission on Saturday.

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Simón Rios Twitter Reporter
Simón Ríos is an award-winning bilingual reporter in WBUR's newsroom.

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