Juneteenth being celebrated throughout Delaware Valley, no Philly parade due to COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery and the date of June 19, 1865, when slaves in Texas found out they were free.

This happened two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

There won't be a formal parade for Juneteenth in Philadelphia this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, by all accounts, Juneteenth is getting more recognition as a holiday than it ever has before.

Philadelphia doesn't always live up to its nickname was the thought that inspired Taj Murdoch to organize a unique march that coincides with the first time Philadelphia celebrates Juneteenth as an official holiday.

"We're called the City of Brotherly Love, but we don't show enough love," said Murdoch.

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Join Jobina Fortson and National Geographic's Rachel Jones as they discuss the history of Juneteenth and what it means at this moment in America's history. Rachel's story "Why Juneteenth is a celebration of hope" can be found at NationalGeographic.com.

The Brotherly Love March began at 52nd Street and Girard Avenue and ended at Malcolm X Park.

Hundreds of men signed up to participate in the march, each of them remaining silent as they participated.

Murdoch also urged the men to write down their insecurities and tape the phrase to their protective masks or clothing. His phrase was self-doubt.

"I doubt it myself five minutes after I came up with this idea," Murdoch said.

But looking at the support around them, he was glad he follow through with it.

This is the first year, the City of Philadelphia has designated Juneteenth as a citywide holiday. As a result, city offices and facilities will be closed to the public on Friday to observe Juneteenth.

"Now more than ever, it's critically important to acknowledge America's original sin of slavery-something we as a nation have never atoned for. The only way to dismantle the institutional racism and inequalities that continue to disenfranchise Black Philadelphians is to look critically at how we got here, and make much-needed changes to the governmental systems that allow inequality to persist," Kenney said in a statement.

The School District of Philadelphia is also recognizing the holiday. All offices and summer school programs will be closed on Friday in honor of Juneteenth.

"It's important that we recognize these parts of history that, as I was growing up as a child, were never taught to me in my school," Kenney said.

In 2019, Governor Tom Wolf declared June 19 as "Juneteenth National Freedom Day" - a state holiday.

Wolf encourages Pennsylvanians to use the day to honor African-American history and think of ways to promote equality.

"This Juneteenth, people across Pennsylvania and the world will celebrate this important day of independence," said Governor Wolf in a statement. "This is a moment to honor African American history and reflect on how each of us can promote equality, liberty and justice for all people."

RELATED: Celebrate Juneteenth in a socially distant way with the PA Juneteenth Initiative

The Brotherly Love march takes in place of Philly's annual Juneteenth parade, with peaceful protesters marching down the street in what Murdoch hopes will become a bigger Conversation about black men and self-care.

Michael Rashid, the CEO of Philadelphia's Juneteenth's celebration, said he is happy that the march is taking place. He hopes this Juneteenth holiday is just the beginning.

"Hopefully it will lead to more education," said Rashid. "Hopefully it can get to be a part of curriculum in schools, And just the conversation about it is a wonderful thing."

Delaware Governor John Carney has announced the state is also recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday.

"Over the last several weeks, we have seen largely peaceful protests demanding racial justice and equality across our state. I have spent much of this time listening, and trying to chart a productive path forward. We can make meaningful change, and I believe we will. As we move forward, I believe the least that each of us can do is commit to learning the lessons of our history. The good and the bad. That's why on Friday, June 19, we will close state offices in recognition of Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in the United States. This holiday offers an opportunity to encourage open dialogue, and to recommit to treating one another with more respect," Carney said in a statement.

The Delaware Heritage Commission and the Historical Society are also working on educational programs on race and slavery.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy will commemorate Juneteenth with remarks at the Friendship Baptist Church in Trenton.

RELATED: What is Juneteenth? History, celebrations, future of the holiday celebrating the end of slavery

In Cape May, New Jersey, there is a fitting celebration of the holiday with the virtual opening of the Harriet Tubman Museum followed by a march.

The recognition of Juneteenth comes as America is undergoing an awakening. Scholars say, in the weeks of protests over the death of George Floyd, more Americans have been seeking to increase their understanding of race.

"When everything began to happen around the country, we saw our sales go up on the online store for books on race, books on the history of racism in America. And books on how to deal racial inequality in America," author Marc Lamont Hill said.

RELATED: Books on race sell out as Americans work to learn more about racism, social justice
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In the last week, books on race have dominated national bestseller lists as Americans try to better understand race relations.

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