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Niagara Falls holds first Juneteenth celebration in recent history

Posted at 11:24 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 23:24:47-04

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — Dozens gathered in front of Niagara Falls City Hall for the city's first Juneteenth celebration in recent history. Juneteenth marks the end of slavery in the United States.

Darren Sneed, a resident of Niagara Falls, said he attended the celebration to help spread awareness.

"We always hear about the Fourth of July and independence, and some people think that basically really encompassed everybody, but we know that it didn't encompass everybody until the Juneteenth," Sneed said.

One of the event organizers, Jacob Fleming, read General Robert S. Granger's 1865 statement freeing all slaves in Texas. Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino read the Emancipation Proclamation, written two years prior. The city was presented with the Juneteenth flag.

"This is something that we always should remember, that we are all one," Restaino said. "And these types of celebrations allow us to celebrate that unity."

This year's Jueneteenth comes as people across the country are protesting racial inequality. Fleming praised Niagara Falls for keeping its protests peaceful.

"Niagara Falls is definitely becoming a leader for the rest of the world to look at," he said to the crowd.

Danielle Fugate normally attends Buffalo's Juneteenth celebration, one of the largest in the country. This year's festival, however, was virtual. She said she was excited to have the opportunity to commemorate the day with her daughter.

"It can be difficult easing young children into this information," she said. "While it can be brutal, but it is part of history, it is something that I feel that is important for them to learn."

Many people on social media are asking why they never learned about Juneteenth in school. 7 Eyewitness News asked Restaino if the school board will be looking at incorporating it into the curriculum. Restaino said that

"To the extent that there are folks out there that say they never knew of Juneteenth that's where we have to begin," he said. "We have to begin in sharing the full history of America."