‘It's Our Independence Day': Mass. Residents Celebrate 1st Juneteenth as State Holiday

For the first time, residents of Massachusetts are celebrating Juneteenth as an official state holiday.

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Juneteenth has special significance this year in Massachusetts, since it is now an official state holiday.

"I am so pleased that we are recognizing, in Boston, the date in which my ancestors actually found out they were free," said Ava Mitchell of Boston.

"It's a big deal," said State Rep. Chynah Tyler. "Particularly for Black Americans. A lot of times, we don't feel like our voices are being heard."

Tyler has celebrated Juneteenth with her family for years.

"Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.," she said.

But she knows many are not familiar with the life-changing significance of that day, June 19, 1865.

"The true freedom and liberation of Black Americans," she explained.

State. Rep Bud Williams of Springfield sponsored the Juneteenth holiday bill last year, taking his pitch directly to then House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

"He thought about it. The next day, he called me and said, 'Let's do it,'" Williams said.

He says the recognition gives him a sense of pride and dignity knowing his enslaved ancestors persevered despite losing everything — their language, culture and religion.

"They endured, they struggled. They had the tenacity," he said.

"Juneteenth is really important to me. It's our Independence Day," said Harice Hardaway, the owner of Final Touch in Roxbury. "It's really important for all of America to know that independence did not come on the Fourth for everyone."

Hardaway says Nubian Square businesses have teamed up with Mass General Brigham for a Juneteenth celebration on Saturday afternoon with free food, medical advice and vaccines.

"See the clothes. We're going to have a fashion show," Hardaway said.

It's a way to send their community a message, especially to young people.

"I think it's going to give them a sense of pride, a sense of being an American," Hardaway said.

On Saturday, Boston's Franklin Park will be a hub of activity as Black families come to celebrate Juneteenth as they have for years.

The U.S. House voted 415-14 Wednesday to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. The Senate passed a bill a day earlier by unanimous consent, so legislation now goes to President Joe Biden's desk.

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