Juneteenth celebration begins early at Museum of the African Diaspora

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — The Museum of the African Diaspora hosted a Juneteenth celebration on Saturday with free admission so guests could enjoy their current exhibitions in addition as participate in special events including a Mardi Gras Marching Band. 

“I think it’s a great way to join with our community and bring people in to learn about Black art and Black celebration,” said Elizabeth Gessel, director of public programs for the museum. “Juneteenth commemorates the last group of formerly-enslaved people to learn they had become free.”

This is the second year June 19 has been a federal holiday (observed on Monday this year). The museum hosted its celebration on Saturday so its own staff could enjoy the day by closing Sunday.

Juneteenth Freedom Day dates back to 1865 when the last group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas first learned they had been freed, months after the end of the Civil War and years after the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Johnta Christmas, an Oakland resident who came into the city to visit the museum Saturday, said “it feels great that we’re seeing more public institutions mirror on and celebrate Juneteenth.”

in other places in the city, celebrations took over several blocks of the Fillmore District and a car parade traveled by different San Francisco neighborhoods. 

“Juneteenth has become such an important holiday because it really marks this final end to the institution of slavery in the United States,” Gessel told KPIX. 

Museum visitors said they wanted to enjoy the day and concede the progress made but they also felt the recent designation of a federal holiday was a small step toward achieving true freedom and equality for all. 

“Now we have to deal with the possible blowback that comes with, you know, asserting ourselves in this manner,” Christmas said. “I think the best way to celebrate is to be Black and take a moment just to bask in that and the fact that you know it was once a very hard time to be Black.”

Shawn Chitnis


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