The History of Philadelphia's Juneteenth Parade

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Juneteenth is the oldest celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

And just last year, Philadelphia was home to the largest Juneteenth parade and festival in the country. But while there is renewed interest in the issues of racism and racial injustice, this year the festivities will look a little different.

Philadelphia has had a Juneteenth parade and festival every year for the past four years. Sonni King is a producer with the Pennsylvania Juneteenth Initiative which organizes the event. She describes what the reaction was when COO Ali Salahuddin first came up with the idea of a Juneteenth festival in Philadelphia back in 2016.

"A lot of people didn't know about Juneteenth. People were curious. It was kind of like an awakening for people to understand what Juneteenth is," said King.

Last year's parade was moved from Center City to West Philadelphia and the attendance was record-breaking. It also gave the local businesses an economic boost.

"Last year, was the biggest parade in the country (and held) on 52nd street. We had 25,000 people come," said King.

King says the killing of George Floyd and ongoing protests against police brutality made the Juneteenth celebrations all the more important and timely this year.

"This is probably the most woke we've been but even now, there's this hunger to want to know about yourself," she said. "Want to know about your history, about our history."

However, concerns over the spread of Coronavirus forced organizers to cancel this year's festivities.

But King says there are still ways to celebrate Juneteenth this Friday that are just as impactful.

"We're not just working on parades and festivals we are the organization that's in the community we do things in the community we help the community," said King.
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