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Rochester residents celebrate black culture with new event

Speaker recites poem

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) - The day slavery ended in America, Juneteenth, is now part of a movement happening across the country.

In Rochester, there was a new celebration in Foster Arend Park, the Juneteenth Jubilee event.

Along with tons of food, music and dancing, those in attendance remembered the day the final slaves in Texas were freed by the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865.

However, Friday afternoon was more than just celebrating history.

"We're not only celebrating our African-American culture but we're also celebrating the Journie program," said event coordinator Nashauna Johnson-Lenoir.

The Journie Program is a lifeskills program for teenagers in Rochester.

"It gets your ready to start a career and our dance team is to get students and kids from doing bad things," said member Makayla Lenoir.

The funds from Friday's Juneteenth event go towards its summer programming.

"There's a lot of enjoyable things like hanging out with my sisters, having fun and taking my mind off other things," said Yanes Muhammad, who has been part of Journie for a year.

After a dinner of ribs, potato salad, spaghetti, chicken and much more, speakers shared inspirational messages.

"Don't wear a Black Lives Matter shirt if you don't want to really represent black lives. Don't wear this shirt because it's very disheartening for me," said Toby Taylor, equity specialist at Rochester Public Schools.

He also urges black students to use their educational and voting opportunities.

"Let's take advantage of that. Let's really more forward," said Taylor. "Let your voices be heard if you feel that things aren't going in a way that it should be."

The night ended with a dance performance by the girls in Journie.

"I like how we're all like a family and we can tell each other anything," said Journie performer Heavenly Davis.

"Black lives matter when we as people seek to become exactly who we were created to be," said Taylor. "That's when black lives matter. That's my peace."

Referred to as "America's Second Independence Day", Governor Tim Walz urges the Minnesota Legislature to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday. There are also similar efforts in Congress to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Alex Tejada

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