By Patricia de Arce and Beatriz Pascual
Washington DC, June 19 (EFE).- Thousands of people gathered Saturday for marches, music, and barbecues across the United States to celebrate Juneteenth and commemorate the end of slavery.
US President Joe Biden earlier declared the day a federal holiday.
The declaration is a welcome endorsement of the demands of the Black community.
But activists fear it will remain a symbolic gesture.
On Saturday, they asked Congress to adopt legislation to reform the police and protect the voting rights of African-Americans as soon as possible.
Despite what remains, music, dance, and colors filled the Washington DC march with a festive atmosphere.
Some participants wore black T-shirts with the phrase “I can’t breathe!” that African American George Floyd uttered before he died.
His death last year triggered a wave of protests across the country, igniting a debate that culminated with the passing of a law to declare Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, a federal holiday.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Army General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas, a federal order declaring the freedom of Black slaves in the state.
It came two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which had officially outlawed slavery in Texas and the other states in rebellion against the Union.
Since then, the African-American community has formed its traditions for this day: dances, picnics, barbeques with delicious chicken and waffle dishes.
Religious services are also part of the tradition. For example, in Washington DC, a group of protesters formed a circle to pray.
Meanwhile, Long Live Go-Go, a local organization formed after the Moechella protest in 2019, distributed candies from atop a truck while playing “go-go.”
The funk sub-genre originated in Washington DC and is associated with its Black community.
The truck had a small banner calling for police reforms and another demanding affordable housing.
At one point in the march, members of Long Live Go-Go asked attendees to ask their representatives in the Senate to stop blocking black votes.
The right to vote is one of the most critical issues for the Black community.
They denied the right for decades.
Republicans in several states have recently passed several laws to restrict the right to franchise.