Philadelphia Juneteenth: Thousands turn out for annual parade, festivities in West Philly

Sunday saw early celebrations around the Delaware Valley for a day enshrined in United States history. June 19th, or Juneteenth, marks when the last enslaved African Americans in Texas learned they were free.

Just two years ago, the day was officially recognized as a federal holiday. And, this year, Philadelphia kicked off the Juneteenth festivities a day early, with the annual parade.

"Juneteenth is a day where you get to spend time with all your family and you’ll have good times!" 5th grader Lashae DeJesus exclaimed.

So many people of all ages and races came to rejoice and celebrate Juneteenth, a day that marks the official end of slavery.

A day 81-year-old Leona Burnett never thought she’d see. "I’m so happy to be here! I’m glad that they finally, finally, finally got this day together that we can celebrate!"

Until recently, many people weren’t quite sure of the day’s historical significance.


"When I was younger, I didn’t know anything about Juneteenth. It didn’t start picking up until recently and now I’m glad to see what it’s turned into," Carmen Belton explained.

And, that’s why Paula Barnes made sure she brought her grandchildren to Sunday’s festivities, in order to make sure they truly understand what Juneteenth means. "A lot of younger people, their parents, they don’t share their history. They don’t have grandparents to sit down and tell them stories, you know, about things that went on."

Juneteenth is really about a phenomenal parade, it’s about the community coming together to help one another.

"I collect donations from churches, friends and family, social media," James Allen, with Community Food Bank, said.

Allen and his family are giving out food to anyone in need. He says Juneteenth weekend is a wonderful way to give back and a chance for the African American community to come together in an uplifting way.

"Celebrate everything that we’ve overcome and not let our past hold us back. We can be positive and we can bring positivity to our community and this event, I believe, is the true definition of that," Allen stated.