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Albuquerque Juneteenth Celebrators Call For Solidarity

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned they were free, almost two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had officially outlawed slavery. Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate Juneteenth in Albuquerque this weekend, filling Roosevelt Park with music, dancing and barbeque. 

Juneteenth has a rich history of celebration from intimate family gatherings to outdoor community celebrations. But this year, riding the wave of the historic Black Lives Matter uprising and the renewed recognition of the contributions and marginalization of people of color in the LGBTQ movement, Juneteenth speakers and attendees stressed the need to work together to lift up all oppressed communities.

Ebony Isis Booth, an Albuquerque-based poet, writer and activist, addressed the crowd and called for solidarity and community support for all oppressed peoples, including the Black transgender community.

“Because can’t none of us get free until the most oppressed and marginalized among us are free,” said Booth. “Everybody is oppressed. There are different degrees of that oppression, and currently our brothers and sisters who identify as trans or gender non-conforming or non-binary are at the farthest end of that margin. They are dying and no one is paying attention. Black trans lives matter, so until they get free, can’t nobody get free.”

Kufre McIver, an economics student at UNM, says he usually celebrates Juneteenth with his family. He says he appreciates seeing the growing mix of attendees at the Roosevelt Park celebration.

“It’s kind of like reflecting on how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve still yet to go. Every year it’s remembering that even though slavery ended a while ago and Jim Crow ended within the lifetimes of several of my family members there’s still injustice,” said McIver.

Valari Taylor, a dietician who works with elders, says she’s never seen a Juneteenth celebration of this size in Albuquerque or anywhere she’s lived. She says she was moved by the feeling of solidarity this Saturday and hopes Juneteenth becomes a national holiday.

“It stirs up so much emotion,” said Taylor. “My heart is overwhelmed. I really do believe we have an opportunity to do something, not just for African-Americans but for LGBT, for immigrants, for DACA, for others, because like it or not all of us - if we are not Caucasian - we are at the bottom of the list.”

TwoLipswas among several local artists who performed at the celebration. 

Juneteenth has been a New Mexico state holiday since 2006, and this year Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered flags to be flown at half-mast to honor the celebration. U.S. Senators on Friday announced legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday. 

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Yasmin Khan covers worker's rights in New Mexico, with a focus on Spanish-speaking residents. She is finishing her Ph.D. in human geography and women & gender studies at the University of Toronto where she studies refugee and humanitarian aid dynamics in Bangladesh. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from UNM. Yasmin was director of The Americas Program, an online U.S. foreign policy magazine based in Mexico City, and was a freelance journalist in Bolivia. She covered culture, immigration, and higher education for the Santa Fe New Mexican and city news for the Albuquerque Journal.
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