MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Preparations are underway for the first-ever Madison Heights Juneteenth event, a holiday that just a year ago many residents never knew existed.
“I just learned about Juneteenth last year myself," said resident Kevin Wright, who is also a member of the Madison Heights Human Relations & Equity Commission. "The more I learn about it the more interested I get.”
The holiday marks the end of slavery in the United States, when on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers marched into Galveston, Texas, and informed slaves they were freed more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
“In the most recent years, there have been several celebrations," Edward Foxworth III, who is Director of External Affairs at the Charles H. Wright Museum for African American History. "This year it has really picked up.”
Foxworth says the holiday was relatively unknown in Detroit until 1968 when then-Congressman John Conyers introduced the holiday to the City. However, it wasn’t until now that celebrations took off.
“I think it’s been the last 3-5 years where it just started and has been slowly but surely picking up,” Foxworth said.
In Madison Heights, members of the newly formed Human Relations and Equity Commission took the charge, spreading the holiday from the City to the suburbs.
“Coming from the African American community, I've known about Juneteenth my entire life," said Chairman Quinn Wright. "It's traditionally a southern holiday, but being in the northern states it was something more so that we celebrated. Had a party, had a picnic.”
Now the whole town is invited to that party, with music performers, a rib cook-off and educational displays.
“We're taking one step closer to reaching that goal of equality and one step closer to seeing each other as individuals and not just black people and white people,” Quinn said.
Outside Madison Heights City Hall, the Juneteenth flag now flies alongside the American flag, showing all of Metro Detroit the day is truly an American holiday.
“Juneteenth doesn't compete with July 4th, it completes July 4th," Kevin Wright said. "It’s the day all Americans became free.”
“We’re hoping that the momentum for this grows and the community continues to support this and we make this an annual celebration,” added commission member Cemone Moy.
The event runs from noon until 5:00 pm on June 19. You can find out more info at their website madisonheightsjuneteenth.com